24/09/2012 19:05 BST | Updated 24/11/2012 05:12 GMT

Sex and The City: Closing the Gender Gap in Finance

Over the past couple of years, the lack of female presence in the boardroom has been something of a talking point - to say the very least!

Cultures are starting to shift and management teams are starting to see the benefits of being more diverse, but confidence and belief are still, in my opinion, lacking. It is still seen as the exception that a woman will get to a senior position.

Since the publication of Lord Davies' Women on Boards report we have heard endless talk over the best way to combat this deficiency, with imposing female quotas at the forefront of this debate.

But ultimately, and in the long-term, do they damage or promote women's interests?

I see many very talented women both in my firm and across the financial services industry, but yes, there are very few in senior positions and even fewer at board level. As CEO of finnCap, the largest broker and adviser to AIM companies, for over 5 years I have been extremely keen to see an increasing number of women at senior levels and have been looking at ways to do this.

For me, imposing female quotas is a short term solution.

We do not need quotas - they lead to the wrong types of behaviour, and not a change in culture.

We do not need 'token' female board members.

What we do need is to create a clear path for our future female leaders of tomorrow to follow.

I have come to the conclusion that the only real way to increase our female footprint is to build an executive pipeline of talented young women coming through who can move into senior management positions and then eventually board level.

cherie blair sam smith

Judith Mckenna, CEO of Asda, Sam Smith and Cherie Blair at Women of the Future awards

This takes time and is something that cannot happen overnight. It needs women wanting to come into the industry, with the determination and drive to get into a senior position. It needs the encouragement of management teams to train and promote women within a culture that sees diversity as important. But most of all, it needs women who have the confidence and belief that they can get to board level.

This confidence building needs to start earlier when young girls are at school. What they see around them is important; role models play a major part and that is where I think a lot of effort needs to go. Every senior woman is a role model and we need to get their stories out to young girls. These stories need promotion.

So how do we get these success stories out there? The Women of the Future Awards, of which I am a past winner, is one example of how by championing our high potential women who are breaking the mould in business, we can provide inspiration to the next generation. These women are proof that, if we look for them, the opportunities are there for the taking.

Sam Smith is a former winner of the Women of The Future Awards.

The awards ceremony will take place at the London Marriott Hotel Grosvenor Square on Tuesday 20 November and is hosted by Real Business in association with Shell.

For further information click here.