As a biomedical engineering student at Duke University, Priya Karani thought she did not have the right skills to break into the heavily male-dominated field of Wall Street trading.
"I was never interested in a career in trading at a bank because I didn't know it was an option," Karani said.
A decade later, Karani is a director at Barclays in New York where she trades health-care derivatives and helps the bank's effort to attract more women to trading by talking to female college students about her job.
Despite such efforts Karani still represents a small minority since few women apply for jobs in trading, deterred by its decades-old reputation as an "alpha-male territory" and misconceptions about skills it requires.
"Trading is a hard one to crack," said Jon Regan, a head of global markets for executive search firm Sheffield Haworth. "I don't think it has changed much, although firms are working hard to improve their gender ratios."
The firm, which works for many leading investment banks and conducts studies on behalf of its clients, found women generally account for 12 to 15 percent of trading roles, he said.
There are no industry-wide data but the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, which oversees U.S. brokerages, said women accounted for about 28 percent of individuals registered with it at the end of 2017. Those numbers include not just traders, but also investment advisers.
Banks' efforts to change that have intensified over the past year with the emergence of the #MeToo movement and growing shareholder calls for disclosures on workforce diversity.
Since last year, major employers have also been obliged to report gender pay gap data for their British operations, which for banks showed women underrepresented in higher earning roles.