A recent report from Pricewaterhouse-Coopers high-lighted that, despite making up more than half the workforce in financial institutions, women continue to dramatically lag behind their male counterparts in leadership roles.
Data from 20 global markets shows women comprise nearly 60 per cent of employees in the financial services industry but only 19 per cent progress through the leadership ranks to senior level roles. Board and chief executive representation is even more alarming: women hold only 14 per cent of board seats and a mere 2 per cent of chief executive positions.
We wonder why this is the case and why there is not more out there to attract and retain women in financial services, particularly when many studies suggest companies with a gender-diverse board perform significantly better than their competitors.
Many countries already recognise the need for greater diversity and adopt key initiatives that require companies to raise the number of women in leadership positions. This is far from just a social issue but one with financial, legislative, risk and talent management implications.
This may change over the next decade, however, as the European Commission recently adopted a proposal for legislation requiring that women make up 40 per cent of board director seats by 2020. To avoid sanctions, many companies will need to take urgent measures to comply. We may want to look over the pond and take note of some of the statistics in the US, where women are controlling 50 per cent of the private wealth and one-third of households’ finances.
With women in the UK representing almost half of the working population, it could be argued that without more in financial services, companies could struggle to understand and meet the needs of the changing customer demographic. There is so much more to do to help women with their personal financial management, according to research carried out by Scottish Widows, which found:
- There is still an awareness gap, in which only 15 per cent of women say they fully understand pensions.
- Just 29 per cent of women are currently part of a company pension scheme.
- Only 7 per cent of women say they are confident in their knowledge of annuities.
- Just over 40 per cent of women want a fixed income in retirement.
- A staggering 90 per cent of women do not have a financial adviser.
- We have struggled over the years to attract women into financial adviser roles and therefore they remain significantly underrepresented. Out of 8,195 firms, only 10 per cent have at least one female member of staff, according to figures from Unbiased.
With so much to do in attracting more women into the industry, can financial services – and indeed the professional advice sector – step up to the plate to attract and retain more female talent?
Lisa Winnard is HR director at Sesame Bankhall Group