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‘Watershed moment’ to boost female careers in finance

The financial services (FS) sector must act now to support women in senior positions, with these three key strategies for improving opportunities, according to a report by PwC. More than half of women working in FS perceive a barrier to career progression in their organisation, while almost half of women working worldwide in FS have experienced inappropriate language, insults and bullying. It also found that many new mothers feel they are overlooked for workplace opportunities on their return to work.

Generational change

But the findings were not all negative. The report also found encouraging signs of progress within financial services. More than 60 per cent of female employees in the sector said they have negotiated a promotion in the past two years, compared to less than half of the participants in all industries. And more than 80 per cent of women working in FS are confident about their ability to lead and to fulfil their career ambitions.

PwC's Jon Terry points out that this is a “watershed moment” for financial services globally and that supporting gender diversity is crucial in demonstrating that organisations understand the needs and concerns of the new generation. He comments: “This generational change should be seen as a window of opportunity for gender equality in financial services: a chance to boost diversity and inclusion and reap the benefits. Yet if this window is not seized there could be serious challenges for the sector when it comes to attracting and retaining talent in the future.”

The report, Seeing Is Believing: clearing the barriers to women’s progress in financial services, found that:

  • 54 per cent of women working in FS believe that their diversity status is a barrier to career progression in their organisation, compared to 45 per cent in other industries;
  • 43 per cent of women working worldwide in FS have experienced inappropriate language, insults and bullying, compared to an average of 34 per cent in other sectors;
  • 60 per cent of new mothers in FS believe they’ve been overlooked for career-advancing opportunities since returning to work; and
  • more than half think that while policies such as flexible working exist in their workplace, they are not readily available in practice (52 per cent) or would have negative impacts if taken advantage of (51 per cent).

3 strategies for improving gender diversity

The report also picked out the following strategies that could improve workplace equality:

  1. The importance of transparency, dialogue and trust in convincing women they can succeed in an organisation, and helping them understand what they need to do to progress.
  2. The need for active management support to identify future leaders and ensure they acquire the necessary experience and access to networks to enhance their development.
  3. Creating an environment that enables women to balance their personal and professional aspirations in a culture that embraces rather than simply accepts flexible working.

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