Women made up just 21% of employees being put forward for senior roles at financial services firms last year, compared to 79% who were men, according to data from the Financial Conduct Authority.
The figures are based on applications to the FCA’s Senior Managers Regime, where final regulatory approval of those individuals is pending.
Diversity in the City
Despite broad consensus about the importance of improving gender diversity in financial services, analysis by law firm Pinsent Masons suggests there has been little progress in hiring and promoting more women at senior levels within financial services.
A review of 4,044 individuals taking up senior roles to the year ending 31 March 2020, shows that 833 were women while 3,211 were men. This data refers to all financial services firms, including banks, insurers, fund managers, hedge funds and private equity firms.
Elizabeth Budd, partner at Pinsent Masons, said: “More and more financial services firms are taking steps to improve gender diversity at top levels but the pace of change is still very slow.
“Given the attention that gender diversity has been given in recent years, I expect many firms will be disappointed that this is not being reflected in the number of women put forward for senior roles.”
One of the reasons often given for the low number of women in senior roles in financial services is that the industry is less friendly towards women who wish to work more flexible hours, or from home, due to childcare needs.
Budd added: “The coronavirus crisis has upended working practices, organisational and operational structures. As a result, women will be hoping that City employers are going to be much more receptive to flexible working requests and this won’t be used as an excuse for the low levels of women at senior levels.”
The law firm added that firms need to be committed to making cultural changes that allow women to excel. A growing number of firms are signing up to HM Treasury’s Women in Finance Charter where they pledge to:
- Have a senior executive personally responsible for diversity and inclusion
- Set internal targets for senior-level gender diversity
- Publish progress against these targets annually
- Have an intention to ensure the pay of senior executives is tied to progress against these targets.
Recent analysis by New Financial of 187 Women in Finance Charter signatories found 64% had increased the proportion of women in senior roles last year while 12% had only maintained the same level of representation.
Previous research from Pinsent Mason showed that in 2018/19 women represented 26% of individuals put forward for senior roles, compared to 71% for men. However, this year’s figures are not directly comparable as the latest figures includes data on a wider range of financial services businesses.