Despite small gains, gender gap persists

More women are seeking stock-trading licenses, according to New York-based Securities Training Corp. (STC). About 40 percent of those currently enrolled in the firm's classes to prepare for the National Association of Securities Dealers licensing exam are women, a greater portion than the company had seen a decade ago.

Many of those women, though, will never end up on the trading floor: A survey of candidates revealed that women are much more likely than men to use their license to become asset managers, financial planners, or investment advisors. Just 44 percent of women planned to go into retail brokerage, sales and trading, or investment banking, compared with 71 percent of men.

"The percentage of women entering the securities industry has been growing steadily for years," says Paul Weisman, STC president, "but you wouldn't know it by looking at the exchange."

The gender gap also persists elsewhere. A new report from the General Accounting Office suggests that, across most careers, women continue to face stiff challenges.

The data, based on Census statistics, shows that women managers continue to lag behind their male counterparts in both advancement and pay. In seven of 10 industries, the wage gap actually widened between 1995 and 2000.

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