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Gender divide gap narrow but more needs to be done

by Lewis Panther & Anita Poppi SA FIN | 24 Jul 2019
Gender inequality is levelling out but not quickly enough, according to FINSIA’s fifth influential industry survey.

The 50-page biannual, wide-ranging Gender Divide in Financial Services survey is now out after months of questioning and analysis.

And while the results indicate an improvement in the treatment of women over the past decade, overall conclusions suggest that much more needs to be done.

FINSIA chief executive Chris Whitehead welcomed the improvements but accepted the need to even more work to be done.

He said: “There has been concerted action by many industry employers to address gaps in pay and representation of women in leadership roles.”

“Measures and awareness of serious inequality issues might be expected to have improved outcomes for women in the financial services sector.

“However, this has not been the case.

“FINSIA has tracked sizeable and persistent gender-based differences in workplace gender equity issues and the actions necessary to promote change.”

A standout government statistic in 2019 is that while more than half of those employed in 166,000-strong financial services sector are women, they are paid almost a third less than their male counterparts.

What is worse is that the industry is “persistently” the worse offender.

“Financial and insurance services remain the industry with the largest gender pay gap - 30.3%,” the report notes.

“The average gender pay gap for all industries is 21.3%”

On a positive note, financial services is doing much more to stamp out archaic attitudes towards gender, according to the survey.

Pay gap analysis carried out over the past 12 months by financial services is double that of all industries. 

“A key theme in the results is the role of culture, ” Whitehead added, which is backed by the findings of the report .

It showed “for both male and female respondents, there is an increased comfort in raising workplace gender equity issues with organisation leadership.”

Men prepared to speak out has increased from 34% in 2010 to 50% in the latest survey. The corresponding figures for women are 24% in 2010, rising to 43% now.

“Despite the increase, it is notable that female respondents are more likely to feel comfortable raising gender equity issues only with other women,” says the report.

An area where male and female respondents were more closely aligned was in the need to share caring responsibilities. 

“There is a degree of agreement between male and female respondents about the impact of caring responsibilities on the pursuit of promotions,” it says, adding further in the report that the attitude that women are the main carers of children and elders has not changed much since 2012.

The response to the question about being forced to trade promotion for flexibility to take time off hasn’t changed much in seven years.

“The results for female respondents have only marginally changed between the 2012 and 2018 surveys with 79.32% of female respondents agreeing that there is a promotion-flexibility trade-off in their workplace.”

The higher up the ladder, the more confident women are in not having to compromise.

“Regardless of gender, respondents in executive management and board director roles are less likely to agree that careers trade promotion for flexibility,” says our survey.

A new question to the age old problem of sexual harassment provoked by the MeToo movement revealed that more than half (55.47%) of the female respondents had “occasionally experienced, or known someone to experience, harassment and/or sexism in the workplace. The corresponding figure for men was 42.57%.

Whitehead concluded by encouraging employers and employees to carry on the work in raising awareness about the gender divide along with the ASX Corporate Governance Council of which FINSIA was a founding member.

He said: “I encourage you to review the key findings of the survey and associated commentary and consider how these results might apply/relate to yourself and you organisation. 

“There is always room for improvement and improvement starts with each of us.”

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