It’s no secret that financial services is a male-dominated industry.

Reports have shown that the percentage of women in the industry remains staggeringly low.

A Morningstar study finds that 10% of fund managers are women in the U.S. Meanwhile, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association says about 19% of all advisors are women, and Cerulli Associates sets the number of female advisors at 16%.

During a recent event in New York, three women who have each spent between 20 and 50 years in the financial services industry reflected on their successful careers in asset management.

Interestingly, none of them set out at the beginning of their careers to join the financial services industry.

Here are the stories and advice from three women – Anne Walsh, chief investment officer of fixed income at Guggenheim Investments; Yana Barton, vice president of the portfolio manager growth team at Eaton Vance; and Maria Fiorini Ramirez, president and CEO of Maria Fiorini Ramirez, Inc., an independent global economic and financial consulting firm – who successfully tore down the pink wall in the financial services industry.

Anne Walsh

Walsh has more than 30 years of experience in the investment management industry. In her current role as chief investment officer of fixed income, she is head of the portfolio construction group and portfolio management, and she oversees more than $185 billion in fixed income investments.

Walsh says she’s had “a nontraditional career.” When she graduated from college, she had no idea what asset management was. “I was an accounting major and I assumed I would go work for a bank or firm in accounting,” she said.

But she began her career working for a public pension plan in Alabama. She started as a generalist, doing everything from cash management to equities.

From there, she diverged from the traditional path in the industry and decided to get her law degree – which she credits in partfor helping her advance her career.

“The one thing I would tell young women today trying to work their way up in any professional services industry – whether its financial services or anything else – its education helped me tremendously in my advancement,” Walsh said.

In addition to a law degree, Walsh also has an MBA and is a chartered financial analyst.

Prior to joining Guggenheim in 2007, Walsh served as chief investment officer at Reinsurance Group of America and has also held roles at Zurich Scudder Investments, Lincoln Investment Management and American Bankers Insurance Group.

Walsh’s other piece of advice is to not be afraide of taking risks.

“I’ve been in this industry for 35 years, but I have been willing to take the occasional risk in my career to take a new assignment or do something different,” she said. “There’s probably not anything in the asset management business I haven’t done – whether it’s operations or portfolio management, private placements and fixed income, equities, cash management.”

Yana Barton

Barton began her career in the investment management industry with Eaton Vance in 1997, but she says she had no big plans upon graduating from college with a business and economics degree.

“I just knew I wanted to move to Boston, and I never looked back,” she said. “I was fortunate enough to join Eaton Vance at a time when we were tiny – managing several billion dollars; now we manage over $410 billion in assets.”

She’s now been at the same firm for 20 years. In her current role as portfolio manager on Eaton Vance’s growth team, she is responsible for buy and sell decisions, portfolio construction, and risk management for the firm’s growth equity strategies.

“I started in front-end administration learning about the funds that I actually ultimately am now managing, which is really an incredible story,” she said. “I was like a sponge. I talked to everyone and I wanted to know everything and I loved what I did.”

Barton thinks the lack of women in the industry may be due to a “perception issue.”

“Our industry unfortunately has somewhat of a perception issue, which is lack of knowledge of how many different roles you can have if you walk out with a business degree or liberal arts degree,” she explained. “There’s this notion that you have to be really, really good at math. Well, yeah, a little bit but you could do so many other things within an asset management firm.”

Barton really sees financial services as a “growth industry,” in particular for women.

“It’s an opportunity for women because there’s not enough of us around so companies are looking to hire more diverse workforce,” she said. “I think it’s ironic that we preach diversification, yet that’s the one thing we sort of lack.”

Maria Fiorini Ramirez

Fiorini Ramirez has been in the financial industry for almost five decades – mostly as an economist.

More than 25 years ago, she started her own firm, Maria Fiorini Ramirez Inc. (MFR), an independent global economic and financial consulting firm. She’s also the owner of MFR Securities, which is the broker-dealer subsidiary of MFR.

Prior to starting her own firm, Fiorini Ramirez worked at Drexel Burnham Lambert where she was the first woman managing director and was also the chief money market economist.

Fiorini Ramirez has also held positions at CIT, American Express, Lavoro Bank, AG Becker Paribas and Merrill Lynch.

Throughout her career, Fiorini Ramirez says she’s “took any negative as an opportunity.”

For example, she left her first job at CIT after she applied for tuition reimbursement and they refused.

“They said, ‘Oh no we don’t refund women … only men get refunded,’” Fiorini Ramirez said.

Or, for example, the time when she was given a 2% raise when everyone else was getting a 5% raise.

“I told the guy in personnel, ‘You can take the money and shove it,’” she said.

She then got a job at Merrill Lynch and doubled her salary. After working as a credit analyst at Merrill Lynch, another job opened up in research at a lower salary and lower grade. But she decided to go for it anyway.

Fiorini Ramirez’s other piece of advice is that, “Sometimes you have to go a step backward to go three steps forward, just because of what you learn and what it adds to your life [and] your career.”

— Related on ThinkAdvisor: