Enquiries Email: membership Tel: +44(0)131 473 7777
It’s a mans world…?
Benefits of banking on woman
More banking and finance companies now recognise “the compelling business case for gender equality” argues LOUISE KIRK. But it’s still a man’s world.
Thirty years ago, it was lonely being a woman in a senior banking role. Gender-related legislation in the 1970s made some headway in helping women to reach executive positions, but those who broke through the glass ceiling still found they were a minority in a man’s world.
A banking career was traditionally a job for life where men could expect to join straight from school, be trained and promoted through the ranks if they were considered management material. Women were more likely to join short-term: it was assumed they’d leave, marry and have a family.
Indeed, until the 1950s, a woman had to leave if she got married.
But, as banking expanded in the 1960s and 70s, more women were recruited and, by the turn of the decade, they represented more than half the workforce.
The early 80s saw a parallel growth of clubs for the expanding community of women who felt isolated in senior positions and sought a support network. Women in Banking was one of these – formed in London in 1980 as a forum for women to meet those who’d already established a banking career.
At the same time, the banking and financial industry, recognising they’d gain from the talents of a more balanced workforce, began initiating programmes to help women return to their careers after having children.
A decade on, Women in Banking became Women in Banking & Finance (WIBF) to reflect the changing face of the industry. And the organisation continued to be dedicated to helping its members become the best they could be and to add further value to the industry.
Despite being encouraged to return to work, though, women were still disadvantaged. The male-dominated environment meant younger people still had few female role models, so many talented school and college leavers simply discounted banking as a career.
And that’s happening again, for new reasons: a recent survey of 450 Oxford undergraduates in The Times shows that women are “...turning their backs on careers in the City” because the Square Mile is seen as “unethical and rife with discrimination”. Banking is perceived as a poor career choice because “high rewards are outweighed by poor promotion prospects for women”. If this is truly representative, it’s a poor testament to the efforts of those who worked hard to pave the way for women 30 and 40 years ago.
Today, while it’s true that there are many more women in business and management generally, they’re still significantly out-numbered by top men in big companies: women hold only 10% of FTSE 100 directorships.
All the same, many finance industry companies do recognize the compelling business case for gender equality. They benefit from the widest pool of talent; it helps build a good reputation with shareholders and customers; it can improve competitiveness and financial performance. So, they’ve embraced positive action to bring greater workplace gender equality and to recognise that a “one size fits all model” is financially unsustainable.
There’s a perceptible shift in attitudes. It’s now more palatable, for instance, to ensure there’s always at least one woman on executive shortlists. Many employers take a very positive stance and, in some cases, have taken it to the next level by vetting the diversity agendas of their suppliers.
However, 40 years on from the Equal Pay Act, women are still paid more than 20% less per hour on average than men. And the differential is wider still in the private sector. On the other hand, the Equality Act 2010, which became law in April, may make it easier to achieve equal pay: from 2013, companies with 250 or more employees may have to publish information about differences in the pay of men and women.
In our ‘anytime, anywhere’ global industry, we haven’t fully bought into the concept that flexible working should apply equally across the genders: it’s still more common for a woman to put her career on hold to care for children.
And senior women can be faced with a new challenge – the ‘glass cliff’ where they’re promoted into roles with a higher likelihood of failure due to conditions already set in train.
So, we’ve learnt lessons from the past, but challenges remain. In meeting them, Women in Banking & Finance has established branches across the UK and Ireland, providing our members with a series of solution-orientated programmes to help them realize their full potential.
A combination of themed events, mentoring and coaching, personal excellence programmes and senior leadership training as well as a continued focus on networking means that WIBF is preparing today’s women to be tomorrow’s leaders.
Women in Banking & Finance: You’ll find more information on www.wibf.org.uk
Back to Regulars content
Back to magazine content
Chartered Banker - the premier qualification for professionals in financial services
Chartered Banker is the most prestigous qualification in the world for bankers and financial professionals.
Specialised Certificate Level Courses - dedicated learning for all levels of experience.
Professional advancement across selected areas of expertise in key banking and financial services sectors.
Specialised Diploma Courses - qualifications of choice for individuals and organisations.
Market-leading knowledge and skills across the banking and financial services industry.
Diploma in Financial Services - a measure of advanced professionalism.
A comprehensive qualification universally recognised as a sign of enhanced tactical expertise.
Regulatory Qualifications Framework - delivering accredited expertise
Qualifications to meet compliance requirements and advanced professional and ethical standards.
We need to make sure our people have the opportunities to learn and qualify right across the full range of disciplines.
Graeme Hartop, Managing Director, Scottish Widows Bank
The Chartered Banker programme provides broad, flexible skill sets and a wide range of ways to achieve the qualification.
Philip Grant, Managing Director, UK Private Banking at Lloyds Banking Group
“The syllabus is very good for the banking industry.It fully recognises the changes in the way financial services are put together and the skills and expertise that are required.”
“We rely on the broad range of skills that the Institute provides.”
Jim Lindsay, General Manager, Airdrie Savings Bank