Gender Diversity in the Financial Sector: Are We There Yet?

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In collaboration with OnePoll, a leading UK market research company, we recently conducted a survey to find out more about how people truly feel about their finances. One of the questions posed in the survey asked participants about their thoughts on gender diversity in the financial sector. The results unveiled that around half of the female respondents (51%) thought finances and investing remained male-dominated sectors – joined by even more men (54%) who agreed.

We wanted to dig a little deeper to learn more about how diversity in the financial sector has evolved in recent years. Is it still a “boys’ club,” or has it become more inclusive? Is the lack of gender diversity all just a misconception, or is it a reality?

Let’s find out!

Women in leadership positions: the financial sector’s “glass ceiling”

A lot of progress has been made over the years regarding women’s representation in the financial services industry. In several countries around the world, progress has been made to break gender barriers in the workplace, and women already represent about half of all workers in this sector.

Women’s share of employment in financial and insurance activities in countries like France, the United States, Japan, Germany, and Singapore are above 50%.

But there is still room for improvement, as there seems to be a lack of progression and advancement in breaking gender barriers and advancing women’s careers in this sector. Their presence in leadership positions remains stagnant. When it comes to global statistics about women in leadership positions, women represent only 12% of CFOs in large-cap firms, 34% of CFOs in mid-cap firms, and 20% of executive committees in major financial firms.

What these statistics expose is that, even though there seems to be diversity in entry-level positions in the financial service industry, there seems to be a “glass ceiling” preventing women from accessing leadership positions in the financial sector.

The term “glass ceiling” refers to impediments and barriers, that can be apparently invisible, but have a direct impact against women’s access to top leadership positions within an organization, preventing women’s career progression and growth.

Cracking the glass ceiling

Can companies help break the “glass ceiling” and promote more gender diversity in the workplace? The answer is yes. Company policies in gender mainstreaming, which aims to achieve gender equality in the long-term, play a big role when it comes to promoting gender inclusion.

The good news is that, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO), almost 75% of enterprises worldwide already have equal opportunity, diversity and/or inclusion policies in place.

Examples of good practices within these policies may include:

  • Maternity and paternity paid leave
  • Flexible scheduling and teleworking opportunities
  • Gender sensitivity training for managers
  • Awareness campaigns

Companies that promote such actions are not only helping to advance women’s careers, but they can also reap the benefits of gender diversity and inclusion.

At Ria, for instance, we have different policies in place depending on local legislation and office location, but we strive to take a universal approach in raising awareness, encouraging equality, and inclusivity in the workplace.

ILO statistics indicate that enterprises with inclusive business culture and policies have a higher probability of achieving:

  • Increased profitability and productivity (by 63%)
  • Enhanced ability to attract and retain talent (by 60%)
  • Enhanced company reputation (by 58%)

Lessons learned

To a certain degree, participant perception towards the lack of gender diversity in the financial industry was true: Women are still underrepresented in decision-making, high-level positions in the financial sector.

While there have been many advances in entry-level representation for women in the sector, leadership positions remain behind an invisible glass barrier. An obstacle that is slowly cracking with the help of company policies that promote inclusion and diversity.

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