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Women in finance: Analysis of our 'Gender Diversity in Business' survey

by Sellick Partnership | 2 March 2016

This is the fifth in our series of blog posts on the topic of Women in Finance. View our fourth blog post, a look at how a career in finance can be encouraged in young females earlier, here

As part of our Women in Finance series so far, we have looked in depth at the state of play for female professionals working in the finance industry, and how a lack of opportunities in education has led to a lull in the number of women who are pursuing this type of career at the highest level.

In order to get to the heart of the matter, we wanted to find out just how much of an issue gender diversity is across a range of industries, and how this compares to finance – plus identifying if men and women shared common attitudes to this thought-provoking matter.

Over the past few months, Sellick Partnership has run a Gender Diversity in Business survey, questioning members of both sexes about how they feel about work, promotions and professional opportunities. With almost 1,200 respondents, we have gained some extremely interesting insights into this ongoing debate.

Women, career progression and child care

Of those questioned, only 34 per cent of women have actively pursued promotion opportunities during the last 12 months, compared with 51 per cent of men. However, interestingly, the survey revealed that 76 per cent of those women who had done so were successful, the exact same percentage as men. This could indicate that many women feel as if they do not have the skills or experience to apply for a promotion, and this lack of confidence is holding many back in their careers.

What’s more, findings obtained by Sellick Partnership highlighted that childcare commitments could be stopping women from taking the next step on the career ladder. Statistics from the gender diversity survey revealed 31 per cent of women believe childcare commitments have prevented them from pursuing a promotion, compared with just six per cent of men.

The findings highlighted here support those from a survey carried out by law firm Lupton Fawcett Denison Till, in which 23 per cent of respondents agreed the existing maternity/paternity package offered at their current job would be improved with the introduction of flexible working. Flexible working is something that has long since been associated with a happier, more satisfied workforce, with women continually proven to be among those employees who benefit the most from this opportunity.

In line with this, a higher percentage of women (36 per cent) questioned by Sellick Partnership believed that maternity leave had negatively impacted their career, compared with just 26 per cent of men. However, it’s important to note that paternity leave was only extended to give men the opportunity to have a longer period off work in 2015.

A difference of opinion

Interestingly, a difference in attitudes towards gender diversity between men and women was highlighted over a number of important issues in the survey. For example, men were much more likely to believe that women are given fair opportunities throughout their careers, with 58 per cent believing this to be so, compared to just 40 per cent of women. However, when it comes to ways to ensure there are enough women in the top jobs, both genders seem to be in agreement that the introduction of quotas is not the way to go. According to the survey, 66 per cent of men believe that quotas are unfair, compared with 51 per cent of female respondents.

A widening generation gap

The gender diversity survey also highlighted a number of differences when it comes to perceptions of equality between younger and older women in the workplace. Interestingly, 18 per cent of respondents in the 18 - 24 age bracket said they felt vulnerable to age discrimination, compared to just eight per cent of 55 - 64-year-olds.

On top of this, younger women were also more likely to believe they are given a fair salary for their current job, with 65 per cent believing this to be the case, compared to 59 per cent of older women. This data backs up figures from the Office for National Statistics released in April 2015, which found that while the gender pay gap still evidently exists, it increases among workers aged over 30, then widens considerably among those over the age of 40. Media coverage of the gender pay gap has increased massively over the past few years, which could be just one of the reasons that employers are increasingly taking steps to ensure that women receive the same remuneration opportunities as men.

Looking to the future

When it comes to ensuring members of both sexes are given the same opportunities in the workplace, the survey highlighted that there is still some way to go in terms of attitudes to gender diversity. Although it is clear that opinions are changing, and conditions are improving, it is clear that many women feel they cannot enjoy the same success as their male counterparts if they choose to take time out to have a baby. It is perhaps unsurprising then that our survey also showed that females are more likely to work for a company that already employs a higher number of women - maybe in the hope that they will not be judged negatively for their decisions.

Overall, it is clear that the finance industry is not the only sector where gender diversity is an issue, and differences in attitudes between men and women exist across the board. Therefore, it is evident that there is still a long way to go until both genders are treated equally, and women feel as if they will not suffer in their careers by starting a family.

This is the fifth in our series of blog posts on the topic of Women in Finance. View our fourth blog post, a look at how a career in finance can be encouraged at education-level, click here

View all blog posts in our Women in Finance series:
1. Women in finance: the state of play today
2. Q&A with Finance Director Nives Feely
3. Breaking the glass ceiling: five prominent women in finance
4. Changing careers and education - what’s holding women back in the finance sector?
5. Women in finance: Analysis of our 'Gender Diversity in Business' survey