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Finance sector struggles to shake off 'man's world' image

The latest eFinancialCareers survey has found nearly two-thirds of the industry believe gender discrimination exists in the workplace - but is it a perception problem? We speak to George McFerran of eFinancialCareers and Nareen Young of Diversity Council Australia for their thoughts on workplace diversity.

Video transcript below:

Donna Sawyer, Wealth Professional
Donna Sawyer:  The financial services sector is still considered a man’s world.  That’s according to a survey conducted by eFinancial Careers, which has found nearly two thirds of the industry believe gender discrimination exists in the workplace.  Managing Director, George McFerran says just 35% of Finance sector workers believe their company has a gender diversity program in place.  But he points out that’s a perception problem.

George McFerran, eFinancial Careers
George McFerran:  Only 35% people that responded to our survey realised their company has got an active gender diversity program in place.  Some 64% of people believed that there is gender discrimination across the industry and then ratchets upto 84% if you just look at the women that responded to the survey, who believe that they have experienced some level of gender discrimination at some stage during their career.  The key finding I found out here is that I think that companies are working hard, but the message just isn’t getting through to their employees.  
 
Nareen Young, Diversity Council Australia
Nareen Young:  In the finance sector there has been great, great, great measures taken to address systemic discrimination in our community and how workplaces reflect that and I think we only have to look at last night, when we saw ANZ Bank playing a very big role in the release of the [___]  work census for example.  So there’s lots being done, there is lots still to do, but we find out more and more about sex discrimination all the time, we understand it more, the more we examine it and talk about, the more things we find out.  So as we do that and go through that process, we address it more.
 
Donna Sawyer:  Nareen Young of Diversity Council Australia says while the finance sector is working hard to address gender diversity, the big institutions have seen the greatest success by setting targets.
 
Nareen Young:  The issue right now is just pick the women, you have the capacity, the women are there, they are ready.  The organisations that are members of DCA like Westpac who have put targets in place, “oh gee, what a surprise, the targets have been exceeded”.  So if you throw all your biases out the window about what merit is, about why women aren’t being picked then suddenly, goodness me the women are there just like they have always been for the last 10 years or, ready, waiting and very able.
 
Donna Sawyer:  Encouraging workplace diversity is a key part of attracting and retaining the best staff and George McFerran says the finance industry really needs to take a big picture approach. George McFerran:  Making sure you have the best people to do the best job is very very important. Now if your talents traction or the impression of your industry that it only favours men over women, then you are automatically missing out on 50% of the available work force, 50% of graduates coming out of the university now are women and if they don’t want to come and work in your sector, then going forward you’ve got a significant problem.  So I think strategically the industry has to change and has to adapt itself, because they are going to struggle to attract top talent going forward.
 
Donna Sawyer:  This is Donna Sawyer reporting for Wealth Professional.