The gender pay gap and the lack of women in boardrooms are topics currently dominating the headlines. Back in October last year not only was the #metoo campaign born but the UK government also launched an inquiry into the number of women working in finance.
Working in accountancy practice recruitment I can see there are definitely fewer women at these higher levels but why? Here are a couple of ideas why.
Firstly, women are less attracted to financial services as it is still viewed as a male dominated industry, so in terms of competition, there are fewer women competing for these top spots in the first place. I’d argue that in order to increase the talent pool more women need to be encouraged into financial services while still at school and choosing their AS level subjects and university courses to direct them towards completing their ACA or ACCA. Both sexes need to be educated about the different opportunities available to them and ignore any gender stereotyping. While at school I certainly was unaware of the different types of roles available within finance. It’s not all number crunching, for example strategy, cyber security, and origination are all areas which require totally different skills sets. From a recruitment perspective it’s hard to deliver a 50% female representation for the higher grades when the pool is not split 50-50 in the first place so positive discrimination comes into play.
Secondly, by the time women are reaching senior manager level it coincides with the best biological window to start a family and some women decide to not return to work or to change their job to accommodate their new family. Some women are able to return to full time work again and continue to progress with only a short delay but more often than not some kind of balance is required.
On this point I do think the larger consultancies are working very hard to make the workplace more flexible for mothers to return to with flexi working hours, the opportunity to work from home and the ability to share maternity leave with a partner. They appreciate that in order to retain their female staff, and in turn create a more diverse and profitable business, these benefits need to be offered. Hopefully with changes such as these and with support from the government we can expect to see more senior female leadership in financial services and beyond. Currently 205 Firms in the UK have signed up to the Women in Finance charter which pledges to have at least 30% women in senior roles by 2021 and of those, 40 firms have committed to a 50/50 gender split in senior roles by 2021 so watch this space!