RBS HR chief admits too few female candidates for top banking jobs

RBS HR chief Neil Roden has admitted there are not enough female candidates for top banking jobs, following a government review which urged financial institutions to promote more women to the board.

Yesterday the Walker Review of Corporate Governance in UK Banks, commissioned by the Treasury, warned banks to elevate more women to the board as there were currently too few females suitable for non-executive director posts elsewhere in the financial services sector.

Roden told Personnel Today: “That is probably right. It is the case that when you try in any large company to recruit a female finance director, it will be difficult to do. The number of women who can do the role is significantly smaller than the number of men.”

However, the HR boss said the problem was societal, rather than one HR could directly take account for. “How you change [the gender imbalance] is not a company issue,” he said. “In the 1980s there were hardly any women in senior management, so in one sense you should understand the changes that have taken place.”

In evidence presented to the Treasury Select Committee’s ‘Women in the City’ inquiry last month, the bank revealed that although women account for 57% of its employees, just 13% of the 240 executives at RBS are women.

To address the female shortage, RBS last month told Personnel Today that shortlists for executive roles would contain at least one woman.

However, Roden yesterday ruled out introducing targets to up the female quota. “Targeting would only work if you had a reasonable chance of success.”

Janey Smith, group HR director, organisational effectiveness at the bank, added: “A lot of women I speak to wouldn’t want to be a target – they want to get the job in their own right and on their own merit.”

HR jobs at RBS

Neil Roden has revealed that 150 HR professionals worldwide have been made redundant since the start of the recession – 6% of the bank’s HR population – with more positions likely to go as further restructuring takes place.

Earlier this month, the bank announced plans to cut a further 3,700 jobs from its retail banking division, on top of 16,000 job losses worldwide since the start of the credit crisis.

Roden said: “We’ve reduced HR numbers worldwide already. There’s a little bit of shaving of headcount still to go.”

The bank plans to cut 25% of the cost out of the HR function, including making processes more efficient through better technology.

“We always look at how we can make the function slimmer and slimmer. I don’t mean taking people out of the process, just time.”

She said the shortlist gives them an opportunity, and was just one of a number of strategies drawn up to improve diversity at the bank.

In October, Penny Hughes, former president of Coca-Cola Great Britain and Ireland, was appointed as a new non-executive director and a member of the bank’s remuneration committee with effect from January 2010.

The Walker Review also called for bank chief executives to face more “challenge”, and outlined proposals for banks to publish the number of staff earning more than £1m a year.

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