The gender pay gap has been an ongoing topic for some decades, and much work has been done to address this since the radical political change of the Equal Pay Act of 1970. Unfortunately, 50 years on, gender inequality is still evident across all industry sectors in the United Kingdom; there are advances being made but it appears to be a long journey until we see parity.
Where does the finance and banking sector stand when it comes to gender equality?
Amazingly the mean gender pay gap across all industries in the UK is still some 10 percent, however in the banking and finance sectors this pay divide is in excess of 20 percent. More disturbing is the spread and inequality at executive and board level; only 15% of all board members in finance and banking are female, with a pay gap for individuals taking home in excess of £1 million per year of over 90 percent. Many will claim this is as a result of men being more proficient in finance, however statistics show that companies with a greater number of females in senior management are more successful.
There are obviously some companies who have made concerted efforts to address this inequality. For far too long equality and addressing the challenges associated with it have been seen as a female issue and thus theirs to resolve. We believe it is vital that male leaders in banking and finance feel comfortable in discussing gender equality and resolve bias and issues arising with all their employees.
Jobs for the boys?
Finance and the banking sectors have long been associated with a culture for the Alpha-Male. Women were and sometimes are still dissuaded from entering a career in finance and banking out of fear of fitting in, often alongside an employers’ subconscious bias towards employing the male stereotype of their perfect employee. Company culture building and team events have historically been built around the male domain. We believe it is vital that employers are careful at time of hire that the language and image they portray is not seen to encourage or discourage female applications; where possible the hiring panel should always include a female, a reassurance that there is a place in the company for females.
At Campbell & Fletcher Recruitment we have always worked with a large percentage of women looking to return to the workplace after time away; often having taken a break to bring up children or for maternity. There are many challenges for a woman looking to return to work, least not childcare. A Woman in Finance Treasury Committee report highlighted that flexible working is seen as a ‘female way of working and can shunt career growth’ – with the recent COVID-19 pandemic we believe that this viewpoint will change. We know that from the working mothers we have placed, that they have the ability to generate the same quality of work remotely around their childcare requirements.
“I leave the office at 5.30pm every day. I don’t apologise for it, but I get a lot of looks when I go. Oddly no one is looking when I go back online after the kids go to bed and I go back to work.” Anonymous
So how does having more female managers and executives benefit the company?
It is believed that having a gender gap in leadership makes a difference when it comes to a banks’ stability; those with a higher share of (female) board members retained capital buffers, a lower proportion of nonperforming loans and greater resistance to stress.
There are four possible reasons for this:
- Having more women on boards contributes to a diversity of thoughts and thus better decisions;
- Women may be better at addressing risk factors;
- Despite an inequality of gender hiring practices this does result in the fact that those women who make it to the top are far better qualified and experienced that their male counterparts;
- Those institutions who do have a higher proportion of women in top positions may be better managed from the top down.
The finance and banking sector must accept that the problem of gender equality and gender pay gaps goes well beyond ‘C-Suite’ level. We believe we need to see a major change in the sectors; fostering industries that welcomes, supports and values a woman’s expertise, encouraging their promotion.
Campbell & Fletcher Recruitments founder Tracy Fletcher commented;
“I had 2 female mentors in my time working for HSBC. They taught me to be true to myself and not be apologetic for having ambition and wanting what was and still is to a certain extent a ‘boys’ job.
I believe it’s OK to be a woman, it’s OK to approach problems with a woman’s perspective – the whole point of having a diverse workplace is to have different views. I firmly believe in encouraging those women around me to fulfil their potential. I still have a mentor and I am honoured to be able to mentor for someone else”
As a sector we must reach out to women and look to invest in their potential. Part of Campbell & Fletchers commitment to the Women in Finance Charter is that we understand there is a huge diversity within the sector and companies have different starting points in addressing gender inequality. We work with companies to set targets and find the right talent recruitment strategy to meet these every day.