It’s been over a fortnight since Harvey Weinstein first hit headlines and the shocks that followed are still being felt worldwide. His actions, while depicting a systematic abuse of the worst kind, have also paved the way for a wider discussion around gender inequality in the workplace. What is the biggest impediment women are currently facing today and what can employers do, and should be doing, to overcome this?
As the industry with the highest gender pay gap in the UK, Financial Services companies have been forced in recent years to do more regarding addressing the inherent issues around gender equality.
According to a report by Mercer, only 15% of women are in executive positions across the financial services industry. To address this, we have seen various organisations set up with the aim of reducing the pay gap and increasing the number of women represented at all levels, industry-wide. Our own Junior Women in Private Equity program is aimed at increasing the number of young women entering into Private Equity and supporting them throughout their career journey.
These events and other various targeted campaigns have generated an excellent platform for networking and support and the subsequent impact has been largely positive. In 2013, just 10% of junior moves to the buy side were female, fast forward to 2016, 22% of these positions were taken by women. However, there is still more to be done. The implementation of such programs has not been universal, and while many firms have taken an active interest in making improvements across the industry, there are still plenty of others that are yet to follow suit.
Various studies, such as one conducted by the Peterson Institute, have repeatedly shown that diversity and employing women into senior positions have positively impacted on company performance. So why is it that it still feels as though very little progress has been made and what more can employers do to bridge the gap?
One of the problems cited by women was a lack of support in a corporate environment. While overt sexism has been stamped out, many of the unconscious biases and gender role expectations have not. The issue is not only creating a workplace that is more inclusive, but also addressing the unstated belief that the characteristics required to be successful within Financial Services are intrinsically male. Firms need to adopt practices and policies that assist women in managing their careers and drive high-performing women into roles and functions that have a direct path to leadership.
Change cannot happen overnight, but we have now reached a tipping point by which the demand for fair treatment and opportunity regardless of gender is likely to continue to snowball. Firms that do not take an active interest in changing their corporate culture will continue to lose many of the talented women in financial services to the firms that do.