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Women in Finance: The View from Sellick Partnership

Posted by
07 Mar 2016
Nikki Graham, Associate Director at Sellick Partnership shares her view on the disparities between men and women pursuing a career in finance, and discusses what can be done to resolve this topical issue.

At Sellick Partnership, we have years of experience in placing candidates in roles that are best suited to their aspirations, skills and values. This expertise means it has always been imperative for us as a business to be ahead of any wider trends in employment.

Over the last five years in particular, the gender divide has become more apparent, but not necessarily in the ways we have seen portrayed in the media. In this blog post, we will take a look at this ongoing issue, and provide our insight, as a finance recruitment specialist, into this area.

More men than women? Not necessarily

One thing I am often struck by when reading articles about the perceived lack of females employed in the finance sector, is the impression that there are simply not enough women choosing to undertake this career path. However, in my view the problem lies more so in the considerable lack of women who are choosing to progress to the upper echelons of a business.

Very often, companies are hiring females to fill financial roles, but it is predominantly males who are progressing to more senior financial positions. Generally, there are more women in finance jobs at the junior end of the scale, and these roles often do not offer the same development opportunities, rewards or remuneration as those roles in management positions do.

It would also be fair to say that there is a considerably higher number of women who are choosing to take career breaks - perhaps, but not necessarily, to have a baby - compared to their male counterparts within the finance sector, and unfortunately this does appear to have an impact on the prospects of many female employees at such organisations. One notable observation is that there still appears to be pressure on women to shoulder the responsibility of childcare, regardless of their qualifications and earning potential.

Are quotas really the best option?

While the introduction of quotas to promote equality in the number of men and women hired within the finance sector has seen some success, this is more prevalent in the banking and finance sector in the City - and we have previously made the case that such an approach is not the best method of promoting fairness in an already competitive industry.

Instead, organisations should be striving to make themselves attractive to prospective female employees by ridding themselves of traditional hiring methods and bringing themselves well into the 21st century. The danger of not responding to modern workplace demands is that companies will lose skilled, experienced and talented professionals as women leave the workforce, and don’t return.

Businesses in 2016 should be introducing flexibility into policies around returning to work, which could include flexi-hours, remote working and support programmes that help their employees balance a career and a family. It is a harsh reality that challenges and a certain stigma still exist relating to females having a career and a family, and this attitude simply needs to change - employers need to be seen to be encouraging this.

How will the problem be resolved?

While many clients often have a preferred criteria in mind when advertising a role, a person’s gender is far too often considered a reason for or against hiring them. Businesses in the finance sector need to consider the reasons why women may be deterred from a career in the finance industry, and work to address these individually to ensure they are perceived as a desirable place to work. Competition, pressure, and a lack of a work/life balance are just some of the issues faced by female employees, and it is the duty of the businesses to eliminate these problems.

Looking at the bigger picture

The UK jobs market has seen considerable improvements in the past few years as the country slowly picks itself back up following the economic downturn, and this has been reflected in the increasing demand for financial professionals. Competition is intensifying as the ‘war for talent’ prevails across all parts of the UK. Therefore, it is more important than ever for employers to focus on their attraction and retention strategies to ensure that they are not missing out on the best talent, regardless of gender.

At present, there is certainly scope for change in the industry - and steps are being taken by a number of bodies in order to address the gender diversity issue. For instance, in the North West, we have seen the launch of the Women in Finance forum from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, which has attracted a significant number of females to a variety of events designed to support career development, promote finance and accountancy as a career choice, and provide a networking platform for females within the industry.

Overall, there is scope for the finance sector to enjoy a rebrand through positive PR and case studies from women who have enjoyed a long and successful career - and the while the future does look positive thanks to industry bodies taking steps to make finance a more attractive career prospect for females, there is still a long way to go until the benefits of that are felt among a wider audience. Educational groups need to work alongside industry leaders in order to resolve this ongoing problem once and for all.

Nikki Graham is a specialist financial recruiter and associate director at Sellick Partnership. With over ten years’ experience, Nikki and her team have built enviable relationships with employers across the public and not for profit sector.

This is the last blog post in our Women in Finance series. You can read the first five posts using the links below:

1. Women in finance: the state of play today
2. Q&A with Finance Director Nives Feely
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

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