Research finds just 1 in 5 individuals proposed for senior financial services positions are women

29 May 2018 | 03:02 pm | 2 min. read

- Financial institutions continue to struggle to fill top roles with women despite appetite for change - Research also finds women more likely than men to obtain regulatory clearance

Just one in five individuals being proposed for senior financial services positions are women according to research by Pinsent Masons, the international law firm.

The Financial Conduct Authority received just 8,471 applications for 'approved person roles' from women over the last two years, compared to 38,493 applications from men.*

'Approved persons' typically have significant influence over the firm's regulatory conduct and therefore occupy senior roles.

The percentage of overall applications for female candidates has remained largely static at 18% of the total in 2016-18 compared to 19% in 2014-2016.

The same research also found that women have a slightly higher chance of successfully completing the 'approved persons' process than men. Last year 86% of female candidates obtained approval compared to 80% of male applicants.

Pinsent Masons says that the research highlights the challenges that financial institutions face in filling senior roles with female talent.

The figures come following the publication of a recent study by Pinsent Masons and the Fawcett Society that shows that a lack of gender diversity in senior roles is contributing to a shortfall in the development of pensions, insurance, and investment products that are relevant to women.

The paper, ‘Closing the gender gap: Female consumer engagement in financial products, highlights that women are underinvesting in pensions and insurance products, and under insuring themselves relative to men - and this is the case even between men and women of similar income. Men are more than twice as likely to hold stocks and shares (23% compared to 11%) and the gender pension savings gap is currently at 54%.

Carolyn Saunders, Head of Pensions & Long Term Savings at Pinsent Masons, says:

“The absence of gender diversity at the top of financial services is a challenge for financial institutions. Although this is an intractable and difficult problem, it is critical for business and society that it is addressed.

It is well-established that businesses with a better gender balance typically outperform others. Also, our own research found that female consumers are largely under-served as a consequence of the way in which financial products are developed and marketed.

The lack of women in senior roles means that products are rarely developed with female consumers in mind. This contributes towards a financial security gap for women, who feel that the financial services industry is not relevant to them. There is an urgent need for the industry to better understand female consumers if we are to improve women's financial security and independence''

However, the number of women being proposed for senior positions is not improving, which highlights the challenge that financial institutions have around the pipeline of talent coming through. As our study shows, a continuing lack of senior females in financial institutions is likely to have repercussions way beyond the gender balance of those organisations. 

In March 2017 Pinsent Masons was the first law firm to sign up to the UK Government’s Women in Finance Charter. This is a commitment by businesses to support the progression of women into senior roles and to report on progress to deliver targets.

*Period ending February 28, 2018

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