Research finds only 21% of last year's applicants for top roles at financial services firms were women

31 Jul 2020 | 09:22 am | 2 min. read

Little progress being made in hiring and promoting more women to more senior roles.

Women made up just 21%* of employees being put forward for senior roles at financial services firms last year, compared to 79% who were men, says Pinsent Masons, the multinational law firm.

Pinsent Masons says the limited number of women taking senior management roles shows there has been little progress in hiring and promoting more women at senior levels within financial services. This is despite the broad consensus about the importance of improving gender diversity in financial services.

A review of 4,044** individuals taking up senior roles at financial services firms last year (year-end March 31) shows that approximately 833 were women and 3,211 were men. This data refers to all financial services firms, including banks, insurers, fund managers, hedge funds and private equity funds.

Elizabeth Budd, Partner at Pinsent Masons, says: "More and more financial services firms are taking steps to improve gender diversity at top levels but the pace of change is still very slow."

“Given the attention that gender diversity has been given in recent years, I expect many firms will be disappointed that this is not being reflected in the number of women put forward for senior roles.”

One of the reasons often given for the low number of women in senior roles in financial services is that the industry is less friendly towards women who wish to work more flexible hours, or from home, due to childcare requirements.

Commenting on this, Elizabeth Budd said: “The coronavirus crisis has upended working practices, organisational and operational structures. As a result, women will be hoping that City employers are going to be much more receptive to flexible working requests and this won’t be used as an excuse for the low levels of women at senior levels.”

Pinsent Masons adds that firms need to be committed to making the cultural changes that allow for women to excel in financial services. A growing number of firms are signing up to the Treasury’s Women in Finance Charter in order to deliver these cultural changes.

Signatories of the Treasury’s Women in Finance Charter pledge to do the following:

  • Have a senior executive personally responsible for diversity and inclusion
  • Set internal targets for senior-level gender diversity
  • Publish progress against these targets annually
  • Have an intention to ensure the pay of senior executives is tied to progress against these targets

A recent analysis*** of 187 Women in Finance signatories found 64% had increased the proportion of women in senior roles last year while 12% had maintained the same level of representation.

Previous research from Pinsent Mason showed that in 2018/19 women represented 26% of individuals put forward for senior roles, compared to 71% for men. However, this year’s figures are not directly comparable as the latest figures includes d data on a wider range of financial services businesses.


*FCA 2020. Year-end March 31

**Individuals taking senior roles under FCA’s Senior Managers Regime, final regulatory approval of those individuals pending. Based on those applications where gender was defined. Gender not recorded in just 6.8% of cases

***New Financial 2020

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