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28 November, 2022 / Diversity & Inclusion

Seven ways to tackle the gender gap in financial services

By Kate Monserrate, founder and director, Simplify Consulting

Change starts with bravery says Kate Monserrate, founder and director at Simplify Consulting

Seven ways to tackle the gender gap in financial services

The glass ceiling is still sadly firmly in place in the city. Research from Simplify Consulting into the gender gap within financial services earlier this year confirmed as much.

In fact, 40% of female professionals admitted they have experienced barriers in the workplace because of their gender. Meanwhile, 34% of women in financial services experience regular gender discrimination and 52% are still experiencing gender pay gap. In addition, 50% of women experienced progression barriers at work linked to life events such as starting a family or menopause.

This is unacceptable in 2022 and beyond. So how can we, as an industry, be brave enough to make a change?

We have identified seven key areas that must change within financial services to help close the gender gap and achieve gender equality and diversity.

  1. Gender neutrality

We need to promote gender-inclusive language, gender equality and challenge gender stereotyping. Our job advertisements and descriptions should reflect this too.

In doing so, businesses will create gender equality and salary parity across teams ensuring a culture of inclusion through the language they use.  A good start would be using business person instead of businessman or business woman, for example.

  • Education and career advice

Companies should be initiating partnerships with local schools, colleges and universities to assist with workshops and mentoring and coaching programmes to raise awareness of financial services and offer employability advice. 

Such partnerships will enable us to showcase financial services as a viable career for all genders.

We would encourage companies to join The Future of Advice initiative – a collaboration between local universities, Independent Financial Advisers and the Personal Finance Society (PFS) designed to attract young talent into the Financial Advice profession.

  • Flexible working policies

Employees sometimes may need to respond to personal issues, such as caring commitments or deal with health issues, such as menopausal symptoms. Flexible working policies need to be expanded to include carer responsibilities, dealing with the menopause and shared parental leave allowing them to manage personal commitments around their employment. Employers will see the benefit as well, with employees focused fully on their work when they are working. Senior managers should help to promote the policies in place for flexible working – leading by example by taking maternity/paternity leave, adapting hours to care for older relatives and children to show that the written policy is accepted.

  • Normalising menopause

The menopause is a significant life event for a female professional that sadly can impact their career in a negative manner. Symptoms that often females don’t even associate with menopause can occur much earlier than expected.

As a completely natural transition that will affect all females and half of the workforce, employers have a duty to help raise awareness, remove the stigma and signpost where help is available. Having a menopause policy is a great start but putting the policy into practice is essential. Companies failing to improve on this are not only risking discrimination, they are missing out on finding and keeping the best people for the job.

Education and support should be available to both men and women, equipping them to support others at work or in their families.  

  • Recruitment

Improved diversity and inclusion in senior leadership is clearly beneficial for employees and employers alike, but firms should be asked to demonstrate that their HR processes such as recruitment, promotions, and flexible working requests, are fair and proper to consciously recruit diversity.

The use of quotas set targets to improve diversity in a business and drive change, but hitting the target can sometimes become the goal, rather than recruiting properly, fairly, and free from discrimination or bias. Employees must have equal opportunities policy training prior to having any involvement in recruitment, using an evidence-based approach in the selection process and interviewing all candidates with the same questions relevant to the job role.

  • Mentoring

Mentoring can be an effective tool in teaching some basic but important skills and provide third party objective support for handling real-time challenges such as, speaking up in a meeting and ensuring you are being heard.

Awareness should particularly be raised around Imposter Syndrome (which 100% of our research respondents said they had suffered from) and embracing ‘female qualities’.

Practical advice and support should be offered to equip people to apply for promotions and ask for pay rises and mentoring and coaching programmes should specifically look at bravery and confidence and be available to all levels of seniority.

  • Male allies

In 2020, the average woman in the industry only earned 73p for every £1 that a male co-worker earned. Having more women on boards and senior leadership teams can help reduce this gender pay gap but additionally, it can result in improved productivity and increase the likelihood of improved financial performance. Women and men alike can suffer from confidence issues, however, it is important to appreciate that these challenges are more present for women today because of the historical and existing gender bias which has ultimately limited self-belief. Women need males allies in the workplace to;

• Understand and acknowledge the male advantage and the benefits of a diverse leadership team

• Sponsor female colleagues – get to know them and be an advocate for them in meetings, make sure there’s female representation and help all voices be heard

• Call out sexist behaviour – Gender equality is an issue for both genders, not just females and it requires collaboration from both men and women to get there.

Part of the Bonhill Group.