Gender Equality in the Finance Sector: Is it a reality in 2017?

November 10th 2023 | Posted by phil scott

Over recent years, many encouraging steps have been made towards achieving gender equality in the workplace.  There have been improvements in career opportunities, positive developments in the gap between male and female earnings and a shift in perception of women’s progression within the workplace.

The announcement of shared parental leave as of April 2015 for example, illustrates the change towards more equal treatment of female and male employees.

However, while many positive changes have taken place, it is too soon within this process to say that we have successfully achieved gender equality in the workplace.  There are many examples that demonstrate we still have a very long way to go before the conditions, rewards and expectations are the same for both genders.

This is reflected across industry sectors in the UK and of course relevant in the finance sector today.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Financial Services Enquiry highlights key issues facing the finance sector.

The report revealed that even with all of the progress made in the industry, women working full time in finance earned up to 55% less annual average gross salary than their male counterparts.  With the economy-wide gender pay gap at 28%, it is clear that the disparity between male and female salaries in the finance sector is even greater.

Plus it explained that 86% of cases reported to them showed women to have lower salaries than men.  Men also held two thirds of management and senior level jobs, while women tended to be concentrated in lower finance jobs in terms of responsibilities and pay.

The AAT’s (Association of Accounting Technicians) recent white paper ‘Making the finance sector add up for women’ looks at the views and experiences of men and women in the finance industry and brings some interesting points to the fore.

2,000 AAT members were interviewed as part of the research and their answers show that a gender bias is not only present in terms of actual pay and progression, but also in terms of male and female perception of the current situation.  Results from the survey display that men perceive the finance sector to be far more equal for the genders than women do.

Chief HR Officer at AAT, Olivia Hill feels that this difference in perception firmly illustrates that a gender bias exists, albeit an unconscious one: ‘Our new research suggests men and women experience the working world in finance very differently, with men much less aware of issues relating to gender equality simply because they aren’t exposed to them.  It appears gender bias – albeit unconscious – still plays a part in the sector’.

Key findings from the AAT’s white paper demonstrate a chasm between male and female experiences across many areas:

Pay expectations:

The AAT’s research showed that men in finance are more ambitious for their future salary than women.

Twice as many men (28%) than women (14%) want to earn at least £10,000 more than their current salary.  Women have lower expectations in terms of salary progression, with 44% wanting to earn only £1,000-3,000 more, compared with 29% of men.

Men are more confident and tenacious when it comes to asking for a pay rise, with 25% taking action compared to only 18% of women.

Pay perceptions:

The difference between male and female perception continues when questioned about the existence of a gender pay gap.  Nearly two thirds of men believe that women and men doing the same job in their organisation are paid equally, while less than half of females feel the same.

The men and women interviewed felt that any difference in pay was influenced by gender bias in the sector in a number of ways:

• 58% said men have always been paid more
• 32% said that those setting salaries were more likely to be men
• 28% said the mentality of an ‘old boys club’ was still present

Parental experiences:

The views and experiences of mums and dads working in finance show that starting a family can have a more negative effect on women’s careers than on men’s.

Almost half of mums felt that having children is a significant barrier to career progression, while just 30% of dads agreed.  Only 17% of dads felt that women miss out on career opportunities because of their childcare responsibilities, but nearly twice as many mums believe this impacts them.

The reports of the AAT and the Equality and Human Rights Commission show that there is still substantial room for improvement in the finance sector in terms of gender equality.  While we should not dismiss the significant improvements that have already been made, there are still plenty of opportunities to further close the pay gap between men and women and improve the level of gender equality when it comes to progression and promotion.