Gender discrimination rife in financial services

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An eFinancialCareers Diversity Survey found that nearly two thirds of Australian financial professionals believed gender discrimination occurs in the industry.

While 54% of surveyed men said there was gender discrimination in financial services, 84% of women said it existed. When asked if they felt they could report it without reprisal, only 54% of the women said yes.

“Despite all the efforts made by finance companies to tackle the issue, it is alarming to see that so many women working in financial services feel that gender discrimination is taking place,” said eFinancialCareers managing director  George McFerran.

According to Finsia research, within financial and insurance service companies that report to EOWA (Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency) and ASX 200 companies:

  • 34.1% of managers in financial and insurance services companies are women;
  • 7.4% of CEOs in financial and insurance services companies are women
  • 14.5% of members on ASX 200 boards are women;
  • 26% of new appointments on ASX 200 boards are women

Women felt under-represented at the senior level of companies, but there was disagreement between men and women about how to promote women into senior positions. ‘Flexible working arrangements’ was the top response from men (38%), but ‘mentoring and sponsoring’ received the most votes from women. Women put ‘flexible working arrangements’ at third equal with ‘transparency in remuneration structure’.

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank certified financial planner Adrienne Rush said her organisation has set up a ‘think tank’, to look at how they can increase gender diversity at senior levels. They have a goal of increasing female representation at senior management and executive levels from 25% to 33% by June 2015.

She said that although her workplace had come a long way in removing obstacles through workplace flexibility, both men and women needed a change in mindset if they wanted to achieve gender equality. Women not only struggle to promote themselves, particularly when asking for a pay-rise, but could also support each other better, she said.

“I think men and women work well as a team so it would be fantastic seeing more women join this industry because we women, like men, make awesome financial planners. We [women] are excellent listeners and communicate at a different level.”

ANZ head of broker distribution Meg Bonighton said her company was also focused on improving gender imbalances. “Our CEO has made it very clear that the advancement of women, particularly in leadership positions, is a key focus. The bank has set a goal of having 40% representation of women in management and ensuring women have equal access and opportunity to secure senior roles and advance their careers.”

Other key findings from the survey included:

  • Seventy eight percent of women think there is a gender pay gap in the finance industry, compared to 44% of men
  • Nearly half of male professionals (48%) think remuneration is equal for men and women in senior roles, while only 12% of women share the same view
  • Only 36% of women felt equally represented at the senior level, compared to 57% of men