While studying at Curtin University, Dikshita Awotarowa began researching networking opportunities for women wanting to pursue careers in the finance and investment industry.
“As a student I felt networking is very key,” Awotarowa explains. “So, I used a bit of my time to research on existing networks for finance professionals and didn’t find many for women.”
Awotarowa, who graduated from Curtin University with a first-class Bachelor of Commerce (Finance) (Hons) in 2020, decided to start her own network with the hope of increasing gender equality in the industry.
“From birth you’ve been directed: you’re going to be a wife and a mother, you shouldn’t be too career-focused, you shouldn’t want to be the head of something – and this bothered me,” she says.
In 2018, Awotarowa launched Girls in Finance (GIF) network – a non-profit and independent membership organisation that aims to provide career opportunities to young women working in the finance industry.
“I was thinking ahead and thought, ‘okay so it’s not really happening in this part of the world (Africa and Asia), and it has to be’,” she says.
“GIF is creating a common platform for knowledge sharing, mentorship and professional networking for girls who have an interest in pursuing a career in finance and investment banking, or girls performing finance roles at their workplaces.”
Then in 2021, Awotarowa began working as a financial market research analyst at the CGIA Africa Regional Operations Office located in Accra, Ghana, and noticed most of the executives in meetings she attended were male.
“Sometimes I was the only woman seated in the conference room,” she recalls.
“You look around and don’t find any other woman aside from yourself: the CEO is a man, the managing director is a man, the head of finance is a man, they are all men.
“You would see women when it comes to HR, marketing. I started asking myself questions. ‘Why is that so?’
“There is definitely an issue of women under-representation in this industry and so I started studying the market.”
As a result, in March this year, Awotarowa founded the Women in Finance and Investment Network (WIFIN), of which she is also the president.
WIFIN is a non-profit organisation dedicated to giving women the opportunity to receive the highest level of professional education, build credibility and tap into a global network to pursue a career in the finance and investment industry.
“We offer training, workshops for young graduates, some of the soft skills that you require,” she says.
“All our trained members are open for internships and job opportunities. We have companies that want to increase the number of women working in the finance department, they come to us.”
Support from various companies has allowed WIFIN, to have a presence in many countries including Mauritius, Ghana, South Africa, Kenya and Botswana – and GIF is now an initiative under WIFIN.
Awotarowa, who completed her degree and honours in Perth after spending three years studying at Curtin Mauritius, credits her time at university for preparing her for the workforce.
“The whole four years of my finance academic journey wasn’t easy, but it taught me how to persevere, how to excel in your studies,” she says.
“My job is to study markets in Africa and Asia, and many thought I would struggle learning how to use the financial software or using financial data, but I didn’t. I was good to go and it’s all because of this learning from my Curtin journey.”
She also believes her move from Mauritius to Perth gave her the confidence to live and work anywhere in the world.
“I think I was just surrounded by an amazing environment at Curtin, and it made the whole journey smooth,” she says.
“This whole experience in Australia shaped me, it moulded me a lot into a person who can travel anywhere in the world and will be fine.”
Awotarowa plans to use her skills and experience to continue to advocate for women in the finance and investment industry.
“We (WIFIN) are an additional voice towards achieving diversity and inclusion,” she says.
“We’re not the only voice, there are other institutions, other networks, other organisations who are trying to achieve the same thing.
“We should be an amplifier of this conversation, we shouldn’t be in rivalry, we should all get together and work alongside each other.”
WIFIN’s vision is to achieve gender balance in the finance and investment management industry and hopes by 2050 that 40% of senior roles in the corporate world will be filled by women.
The organisation plans to achieve this by focusing on emerging markets before WIFIN expands to established markets, as well as sparking inclusive conversation.
“We want to make it a global network with opportunities,” she says. “To network with conversations with both genders.
“We don’t believe that we should just talk to women. No, we talk with both men and women. I believe it’s only when you have these conversations with both genders that you will be able to make change.”