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Improving the representation of women in financial services

Improving the representation of women in financial services
Submitted by Prajila on Thu, 12/12/2019 - 07:47

It is time to properly address and act on the lack of female professionals working in technology and financial services, ensuring these industries have more women filling leadership roles in the future.

Vastly underrepresented in tech and financial services

It is well publicised that there are not many female professionals in finance, technology or those who are entrepreneurs. Banks are struggling to find and retain women, having to compete more than ever to attract appropriate candidates. Firms have been taking strides, but there is still a lot to be done in terms of promoting female representation at senior levels and closing the gender pay gap across the financial services industry.

There is positive correlation between a diverse executive team and its financial performance. But why, if a diverse and balanced gender ratio adds clear value to any organisation, are women so drastically underrepresented in these areas?

In figures: Just how bad it is

  • In technology, less than 20% of jobs are represented by women
  • 47% of the UK workforce is female, but in FinTech the overwhelming majority of staff is male
  • Less than 5% of the top executive roles at Europe’s top 50 FinTechs are held by women - there is only 1 female CEO
  • HSBC reported a mean gender pay gap of 59%
  • At current rates, female representation at executive levels isn’t expected to hit 30% until 2048

Why is there such a rift between men and women?

Women are inherently underrepresented in financial services - this means the pay gap between genders is vast and it is unsurprising that many companies have been under severe scrutiny because of their gender pay practices. Many institutions have highlighted that equal pay isn’t the issue, but it’s primarily down to the lack of women filling senior roles.

The fact of the matter is that a considerable number of women are deterred from entering the industry because of the perceived alpha male culture. Firms must focus on adjusting their culture if they want to attract women - at the moment, in many cases, the culture is a deterrent.

Uproot the alpha male culture in financial services

This male dominant culture is most apparent during bonus season; men tend to have more confidence when it comes to discussing bonuses, whilst women are often more reserved. One way to overcome this is by ensuring an individual’s bonus is assessed in a formulaic manner, against clear and concise objectives.

Another negative aspect of culture is the belief that working beyond contracted hours is part and parcel of being successful in the industry. Due to maternal duties, women frequently seek opportunities that offer flexible working, but the lack of this in financial services is likely to put them off entering the industry in the first place. There is a call for senior male professionals to adopt flexible working practices - something that is rare in the industry - in an attempt to change the culture and display that flexible working doesn’t lead to lower productivity.

Encourage and empower women to go for leadership positions

The government and industries should work together with schools and education organisations to promote relevant subjects in an attempt to encourage young women to study them, as well as raising awareness of the career paths available. This transparency from an early stage is key if we are going to change the mindset of females.

Some firms are taking steps - PwC are aiming to get organisations working together to increase the number of women in Tech UK roles with their Tech She Can programme and they have also announced they won’t accept male only shortlists in an attempt to close their gender pay gap. Rise Up from Money20/20 is another programme that is attempting to empower the next generation of female leaders in financial services through skills, tools and learnings.

Look to the future and realise the benefits

Firms need to recognise the benefits of an evenly gender represented workforce - it will help them to be happier, more profitable and overall, more successful. They need to foster women’s careers early on if they want to access a lot of talent that would otherwise go untapped. Women must be given equal opportunities and confidence - after all, they are going to make up a significant part of the next generation of our leaders.