From Trailblazers to Titans – How Far Have We Come and How Far Do We Still Have to Go?

by | 6 Oct 2023

Home » News » From Trailblazers to Titans – How Far Have We Come and How Far Do We Still Have to Go?

It’s no secret that the finance industry has long been male-dominated, but today, women are making significant strides in chipping away at the glass ceiling and reshaping the industry for the better.

Perhaps a poignant moment for women in the industry was the recent hiring of Michelle as the RBA governor. This historic appointment has prompted us to reflect on the progression of gender diversity in financial services, particularly the challenges that have been overcome, and the ones we, as women, are yet to face.

From the underrepresentation and gender pay gap of the early 1990s to the transformative changes happening today, we thought it was worth reflecting on how far women have come in the industry and looking at the exciting future of finance that women are helping to shape.

If we rewind 30 to 40 years ago, there has been a steady upward trajectory for opportunities and career progression for women in finance, but it goes without saying that the bar was very low, to begin with.

Addressing the Pay Gap
Figures from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) revealed that the financial services sector showed a gender pay gap of 29.5%, second only to construction (30.6%) as of February 2022.

A diversity survey by the Financial Services Council also found that men were twice as likely to be earning more than $120,000, while women were 50% more likely than men to be in the bottom quartile, those earning $60,000 or less. This makes it clear there is still a long way to go in closing the gender pay gap and ensuring women are given more opportunities for progression.

Women in Leadership Roles
On the topic of career progression, the percentage of Australian women in senior management positions is still only 28.7%. Furthermore, the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors reported that as of March 2022, only 6.5% of CEOs and 9.5% of chair roles across the top ASX200 companies.

There also appears to be a common association between executive-level women and feelings of imposter syndrome, which has long been perpetuated by the disproportion in gender representation at the top level.

But we’re not seeking token diversity or for companies to simply tick a box by encouraging women into these high-level leadership roles; there is a strong push for greater gender diversity as businesses now begin to realise the strategic benefits and how women are helping to drive better productivity, performance and profitability.

Work-Life Balance for Women
When “work-life balance” first appeared in use, it was in the ’80s as part of the Women’s Liberation Movement, advocating flexible schedules and maternity leaves for women. And while we’ve made significant headway on these working right, we’ve yet to create the perfect balance. But what does that look like? The answer is different for everyone.

But the key takeaway of this is that as a business, you should be addressing the work-life balance needs of your staff based on their individual needs, not generic policies that may or may not also inadvertently disadvantage others. A report from Forbes notes that better flexibility, more support for female AND parents, as well as re-entry programs and professional development opportunities, will help establish better conditions for women in the workplace.

Expanding Sector-wide Opportunities
While women have been making steady inroads into accountancy and finance, unfortunately, some areas within the industry are lagging more than others when it comes to female representation. Particularly financial advisory and investment banking.
Wealth Data shows that the overall number of female advisers is 23%, falling to 22% for the financial planning model and 17% for the investment advice model.
A diversity survey by the Financial Services Council (FSC) in November found that women, on average, make up only 27% of investment teams.

Digitalisation and Fintech
Technology appears to be another area where women are yet to take up more opportunities. One of the key questions that looms large when it comes to fintech is how AI, automation and machine learning are set to impact the finance sector, and, furthermore, how this may influence the current roles that women hold. The Olivia Wyman Institute has noted that the current lack of women in technology will become increasingly important to address as the industry digitises.

Despite the Fintech sector projected to be worth a $1.5 trillion industry come 2030, women are slow to uptake these roles. But perhaps this may be an issue we must address not just at a corporate level, but a lot earlier – at school age.

Formative Education and its Impact on Careers
Kate Bushell, founder, and director of social enterprise Girls of Impact, says she still hears of teachers discouraging girls from selecting subjects in maths, science or technology. She also reveals that research has shown that girls start discounting themselves from certain jobs as young as age seven.

It’s a sad reality and one that has been perpetuated by years of unconscious bias and societal gender norms. This is where we as an industry – firms, recruiters and educators, must work together to encourage girls at school to consider careers in finance and provide them opportunities to learn and grow within the sector through the availability of more internships, apprenticeships, mentorships and sponsorship.

Existing initiatives like F3 Future Females in Finance are paving the way with dedicated programs, panel sessions and work placements for school and university students to learn about the different types of roles in the financial services industry and encourage more women to consider finance roles and I firmly believe we all need to follow suit if we have any hopes of creating true gender equality in the sector.

Whilst there is undeniable progress being made by women in the financial sector, we have a long way to go before true equality is realised. Through better work-life balance, more educational programs and opportunities for career progression, we may be able to improve gender equality and encourage women into more senior roles while enhancing gender equality in underrepresented sectors.

Give us a call today to discuss how we can help your business hire top female talent and diversify your workplace for improved outcomes.

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