Counting the cost of a lack of diversity

A major survey, by financial recruitment firm Robert Half, has uncovered a dearth of family-friendly working policies in the finance industry, despite recent government legislation to encourage firms to accommodate working parents.


Almost half of the employees questioned said there was no company policy on flexible working in their workplace, while 32 per cent went even further by claiming their company was not family-friendly.


Nearly half of the female respondents felt the accountancy profession discriminated against working mothers, although just a quarter of their male colleagues agreed.


The study of more than 2,500 UK finance professionals revealed that just two in 10 financial directors are women, with just one in eight firms hiring a female chief executive.


The figures show that although the numbers are pretty evenly split at junior level, this falls off dramatically as employees move up the ranks, suggesting that women are still hitting the ‘glass ceiling’.


The gender pay gap is also wider among finance professionals, with women earning an average of 22 per cent less than their male colleagues, compared to 18 per cent across the workforce as a whole.


The poll suggests that women are forced to move jobs in order to gain promotion, with the majority seeking alternative employment after three years.


Phil Sheridan, UK regional manager at Robert Half, says HR professionals have a major role to play in helping shape a new culture in the sector.


“There’s a big disparity at the senior end, and I think it comes down to a lack of support for women working in the finance profession. Culturally, I think the sector is all about delivering results and meeting targets, which can often mean short-sighted policies on staff.


“The finance sector is always slow to change and although the flexible working laws are in place, it doesn’t seem to be dropping down to the actual workplace,” he explains.


However, there are some positive signs with the number of women entering the profession steadily growing year-on-year. Just more than half of all new recruits are now female, but Sheridan warns that employers must build on this to ensure the same old cycle isn’t repeated.


“The HR function needs to work really hard to encourage managers to change the culture of the industry. Everybody you speak to in the sector supports these ideas, but when you go into the workplace, the rhetoric is not becoming reality,” he says.


HR professionals in the sector are facing some stark choices, with the findings highlighting high levels of dissatisfaction around pay, long hours, training and career development.


Half of all finance professionals claimed they were looking for a new job, with 56 per cent citing better career development as the main reason.


“As the economy improves, people aren’t going to settle for jobs where they aren’t totally happy. HR needs to shape the culture of organisations because it’s areas like training, development, motivation and job satisfaction where financial employers have been failing.”



Key findings:


– 47 per cent of female staff said the accountancy profession discriminates against working mothers


– 28 per cent of staff work more than 46 hours a week


– On average, women earn 22 per cent less than men


– Only one in eight chief executives are women


– 28 per cent of women have suffered age discrimination


– 46 per cent of female staff are looking for a new job


– 56 per cent of working women want better career develop

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