Should the financial services industry do more to improve career opportunities for women? Not according to the majority of financial services professionals who took part in a CISI survey.
Of 931 respondents, 57% disagreed that action was required to correct a gender imbalance (33% strongly disagreeing and 24% tending to disagree).
Among the 43% who felt change was needed, 28% strongly agreed and 15% tended to disagree.
The survey was conducted in the light of the Financial Conduct Authority’s January 2015 Data Bulletin which showed that of the 125,000 approved persons working in customer function positions, 82% are male and 18% are female. The Government target is for 30% of board members to be women.
Among opponents to new measures there was a widespread concern that the imposition of a quota for the employment of women would be unfair and counter-productive.
One respondent said: “I believe in a meritocracy. The appointment of directors should be based on ability and not half-baked positive discrimination.”
Another warned: “It is important that approved persons are appointed because of their skills and not because of their gender. Any positive discrimination could only lead to lower qualified people joining the market.”
Some others suggested that the financial services industry simply did not appeal to many women.
A female respondent said: “It’s hard for women because it’s so male dominated. Sometimes it is a very sexist environment.”
Those calling for action included a contributor who attended a recent seminar on women’s careers and described the language used by a male recruiter as from the ‘1970s or 80s.’
“It seems the UK has not moved much. Individuals and firms need to change their culture,” said the respondent.
Another said the industry must focus on recruiting more women at customer-function level to provide a “greater pool of female staff to promote to senior positions.”
A further contributor remarked: “Regulatory institutions should be empowered to correct this wide anomaly.”
A selection of other comments from contributors:
“To make any form of `allowance` to balance figures in favour of any one gender is itself bias. Allow anyone who has the drive and ability to do the job to obtain it of their own merit”
“It is ridiculous that in this day and age this is still the position. Clearly there a lot of old boys` clubs still running, it`s certainly not because women aren't capable or standing up to be counted”
“Women shouldn't be on boards just for the sake of hitting a percentage target. Women should be on boards because they have the skills and experience necessary to be able to positively contribute to the board”
“Unless there is a proven discrimination happening on behalf of the industry it is not proper trying to push a person (women in this case) to take a particular career!”
“The disparity in the figures shown for `approved persons` may well be symptomatic of boards of directors and senior management not doing their jobs properly, certainly in relation to shareholder value, and a sign that there is still significant bias towards long-term friends and contacts with whom they feel safe, as opposed to choosing the best person for the job, regardless of background and gender”
“Women, as history tells us, are as important to the financial industry as men. More importantly their relatively risk-averse nature makes them even more useful to the industry”
“I feel industry already has enough in place to promote female workers”
“Yes and the industry should assess if women who have children are supported in the way they should be (affordable childcare, flexible working hours, working from home)”
“Who cares? Primary school teachers are overwhelmingly female. There`s nothing stopping men becoming primary school teachers or women becoming stockbrokers. But the genders CHOOSE different jobs. It’s none of the government`s business setting targets. Leave people be”
“Imposing targets for inclusion could lead to sub-standard persons in influential functions. I do believe that more should be done to entice more women into the industry, as it is still very male dominated”
“It is what it is. Women are perfectly capable of getting on to boards if they so desire and the Government should not interfere in what is ‘natural selection’”
“I do not particularly favour positive discrimination, but something needs to be done to correct a clearly unnatural imbalance. Is there scope within the new certification regime? Will that open the field for women? Or will pre-existing internal biases merely be replicated?”