Most young women in finance don't think they can make it to the top

Double the proportion of men think they can advance in finance.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 10 Jun 2015

The City is renowned for being an ‘old boy’s club’, despite an increasing number of diversity targets at companies including Barclays and Lloyds. But even with its reputation it’s still disheartening to see that a majority of young women in finance don’t think they can make it to the top.

Only 35% of 20-35 year-old women feel they can get to senior positions within their current organisation, according to a PwC survey of 8,000 women around the world, 600 of whom work in finance. That’s less than half the proportion of men working in the sector who believe they can make it to the top and significantly lower than the still-low 49% of young women in all industries.

Meanwhile, half of the women in finance think promotion is biased towards men, compared to just 20% of their male counterparts, suggesting a less acute perception of gender bias from those who benefit from said bias. Unsurprisingly, almost three-quarters of young female financiers said their opportunities were still unequal despite all the talk of diversity by their organisations.

It’s no wonder young women are feeling that way. There are female role models at the pinnacle of global finance, from Federal Reserve president Janet Yellen to Santander chair Ana Botin and Newton chief exec Helena Morrissey. But not enough: an FT poll in January found just 19.5% of managing directors or equivalent at 30 top City firms were women.

Some people are now advocating quotas on boards and in senior management as the answer. Others think they are a blunt tool, pointing to the success of Lord Davies’ voluntary target of 25% FTSE directors by the end of this year.

MT generally doesn’t support quotas. For example, Norway’s stipulation of 40% female directors hasn’t led to more women executives (it seems in-demand independent directors often don’t have time for management roles). But it will be an important test to see if Lloyds and Barclays manage to increase the proportion of female senior managers to 40% by 2020 and 26% by 2018 respectively.

In the meantime, the rest of the financial industry has to keep on changing, from supporting and increasing the pipeline of talented women to ending the non-family friendly culture of long, desk-bound hours. A good start would be more companies owning up to their problems.

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