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Do we need more women in financial services?

Trust in UK financial institutions is sadly lacking. Could an increase in the number of women in top jobs be the answer to this problem?


by Michelle McGagh on Jul 31, 2012 at 10:45

Do we need more women in financial services?

Much has been written over the past year about women in financial services. The issues raised have ranged from pay equality to boardroom roles and whether testosterone fuelled the financial crisis.

At the launch earlier this month of the Question of Trust campaign, which aims to put consumer trust on the agenda of every financial services board, the role of women in financial services was brought up again by Jason Butler, principal of London-based Bloomsbury Financial Planning.

Butler asked the panel assembled by campaign founder Shane Mullins (you can read all about his campaign here) whether trust would be improved by having more women in top financial services roles.

Glass ceiling?

Gender equality in business has long been hotly debated, with a focus on how the UK can get more women into top jobs. Research by head-hunting firm Odgers Berndtson published last year revealed that women occupy just 23% of board positions at private companies in the UK, and although the number of female board members has increased since 2009, the rate of growth is a pretty pathetic 2.1%.

When it comes to women heading up private companies, just 3% of companies have a woman in the top job.

These figures are for companies overall, and if you look at financial services specifically the number of women in positions of power and falls even further – finance remains a man’s world.

There has been the suggestion that if more women had been in control of financial companies there would have been less risk taken, and the financial crisis may not have been as bad.

Attitudes to risk

In an interview with the Evening Standard recently economist Vicky Pryce touches on the topic of risk. She says male City traders do not think they are being risky when they place huge stock market bets, they are just being optimistic, and think they will beat the market.

Pryce believes women are better at ‘collegiate behaviour and caring for the common good’, traits which the Question of Trust campaign is trying to instil in financial companies. She also believes that pushing women out of top jobs is damaging for society as a whole.

‘[Women] go and do other things – sometimes part time, sometimes things that don’t use their brains particularly, and what you end up with is women generally working below their skill level… that won’t allow the economy to grow to its full potential,’ Pryce said.

Risk and reward

One other point Pryce makes is the risk-reward system in banks. Whatever your gender, those who are rewarded most highly are those who take the most risk – usually at the expense of the consumer.

The idea that gender makes one person take more risk than another is interesting, but is the argument really about what sex you are?

Surely the main problem with financial services is the short-termist reward culture, which Professor John Kay's report into the UK stock market eloquently analyses. It will be a long time before consumers trust financial institutions again, and the only thing that will help is knowing that the organisations are working in their interests, not a smiling female face.

19 comments so far. Why not have your say?

Matthew Charles Flinders

Jul 31, 2012 at 11:22

"Research by head-hunting firm Odgers Berndtson published last year revealed that women occupy just 23% of board positions at private companies in the UK, and although the number of female board members has increased since 2009, the rate of growth is a pretty pathetic 2.1%."

And what is the ratio of Men:Women working in financial services?

Glass-Ceiling is nonsense. People get the jobs they deserve.

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Mike the red

Jul 31, 2012 at 12:35

Glass ceiling is not nonsense, it is clearly there to see. The fact that there has only been one woman prime minister in the biggest men's club around says it all Women invariably get overlooked because of their circumstances (child care etc) and the fact that they didn't go to the right school/university.

If the people working in government, senior civil service, financial services etc got the jobs they deserved they would now be sweeping the streets after helping to f*** up the economy and helping to ruin thousands of lives.

The sooner there are more women working in financial services, the better.

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normski 2nd

Jul 31, 2012 at 12:44

Do you mean that woman that worked for Rupert Murdoch ?.

Make no mistake, women can be as ruthless as men.

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Jul 31, 2012 at 13:13

and using unfair tactics

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Matthew Charles Flinders

Jul 31, 2012 at 13:26

Mike please tell me how many women study politics/pursue a career in politics compared with Men?

I work in financial services. My experience is that there are ample opportunities for the employee that deserves it. There is no segregation or discrimination in sex. And yes Women are on the board.

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Raj Thamotheram

Jul 31, 2012 at 14:04

Of course, women are over-represented in service/back office roles

But there is one part of the financial sector where women outnumber men in a front-office type role and that is ESG or responsible investment.

Interestingly, not many of the teams are led by women and those women dont often get up the career ladder.

I guess the old school would say this is because these female ESG analysts arent as good as the men!

(Thats irony, before I get flooded with complaints!)

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Alan Tonks

Jul 31, 2012 at 15:05

“Trust in UK financial institutions is sadly lacking. Could an increase in the number of women in top jobs be the answer to this problem?”

Absolutely definitely not, if I gave the facts to support what I am thinking, I would be hung, drawn and quartered.

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Nigel Harris

Jul 31, 2012 at 16:25

"Gender equality in business has long been hotly debated, with a focus on how the UK can get more women into top jobs."

Why the top jobs? What about the underpaid, dirty, dangerous jobs with long hours and no benefits? There is a distinct absence of females there.

This continues subjugation of meritocracy is sub-optimal.

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David Rowse

Jul 31, 2012 at 16:31

Perhaps what we need are more people of integrity and moral maturity, whether they be men or women?

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Mike the red

Jul 31, 2012 at 17:59

David has summed it up perfectly. Sadly, sexism is rife and women are perceived by many as inferior. Until that changes we are left with the old crony network that hasn't really changed since the donkeys led the lions to their graves nearly 100 years ago.

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Ian Lewthwaite

Jul 31, 2012 at 19:29

HI WOMEN ARE ALREADY IN FINANCIAL services in a big way, society calls it marriage, the financial payout comes when they wake up one morning and want rid of the bloke - its usually divided equally , but they get the big half?

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Roger Savage

Jul 31, 2012 at 22:20

What a load of nonsense - more 'positive' discrimination is the last thing we need.

In fact, whatever the job, whatever the industry, the only thing that should matter is not gender or race, but ABILITY to do the job.

If that means hiring a competent white male over an unsuitable but politically correct choice (whatever form that takes) to 'look good' or make up the numbers, that's what should be done.

I'm sick to death with Britain becoming a failure at everything whilst the only exports (and most certainly imports) revolve around poltiical correctness.

Other countries must be laughing their proverbial heads off... (and quite rightly too!)

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Raj Thamotheram

Aug 01, 2012 at 23:33

Roger: what do you make of this research?

Is it "nonsense" too?

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Nigel Harris

Aug 02, 2012 at 06:27

Yes, it is "nonsense" too. The feminist media, dominated by women, have an agenda, and simply look for confirmation bias. It is easy to find data to appear to support such an ideology, but correlation is not causation. If women were better than men, and earned less than men, businesses and companies would have been created by women, and would be dominated by women by now as a result of the "market". Women, as the largest consumer block, and as the largest voting block, have it easy in a democracy to the extent that men lake Raj go begging for their approval. Women have played a really good trick on men in getting men to risk their lives and die an earlier death, whilst women get to spend all the money on themselves, especially when they keep shouting that they are so superior to men. Lets us all stop this "nonsense" and send women down the coal mines at once!

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Aug 05, 2012 at 11:41

At my first equal opportunities indoctrination I was accorded the status of a minority bigot. The place was in a classroom, Virginia, USA, the time was 1979 and the reason was that despite my being the only person in the room with a female head of government and having no qualms because she was not there due to a quota system, which was the essence of the indoctrination, I placed Freedom above Equality in list of desirable attributes in a society. I still haven't changed my view that the former is an essential prerequisite of the latter and that quotas mean loss of credibilty for any organisation. Look at the Blair Babes!!!

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Jack Belfitt

Aug 05, 2012 at 15:30

Many years ago I was informed by a feminist (Or should the term really be female masculist?) that if there were more women in top political jobs, there would be far less war. Within two years of being thus informed, there were just

two major conflicts. Golda Meir was running one and Indira Gandhi the other! At the moment we also have that very shrill and bellicose Mrs Clinton attempting to bring about a regime change in Syria! (Israel would like that!) I can't help thinking that that it is probably only mannish women who chase after power! Personally I favour competency being the criteria, not the candidate being a token something or other!

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Tongue of Fire

Aug 06, 2012 at 16:52

I fail to understand how our exports "revolve around poltiical correctness". It is an imported product from the West Coast of America, in which we are simply trading, as we usually do. However, what is questionable in the phrase is how can something be both correct and political at the same time. If something is correct, then that it is and that is it. If it is then denigrated by a deliberate user of a adjective, in order to render it incorrect, is this not an example of serruptitious American irony? Perhaps we should check, and correct, our English before we use it.

Perhaps we should concentrate about making money work in an environment where growth is not a bubble of an overheated imagination but a onsequence of industrious, not industrial, action. The Germans bless them got the timing of their value heavy exports just about right. Flogging derivative indexes to death should now be left to the girls.

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Aug 06, 2012 at 17:41

With respect I think you may be misanalysing the use of the term 'politically correct' . I see it as short for 'politically expedient for me as a vote seeker to view something as correct.' While that is indeed denigrating the term because of the self serving connotations associated with the politicians and lobbyists who wallow in this field, grammatically, I would suggest it is not actually intimating that something is incorrect. '

Just a thought!

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Tongue of Fire

Aug 06, 2012 at 18:01

I thought it meant behaviour as between self elected peers, but certainly did not see the juggernaut of the articulations so successfully inserted. Bravo. However, it is clear that the juxtapositioning of two otherwise clear concepts has led to a further cloud of "understanding"!

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