Recruiting women in Financial Services

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we have asked the women in the office to write an article each. This is written by Kelly Biggar, head of our Wealth Management desk. To read the other entries, please follow the links below:

Beate – Diversity, Gender & Financial Services
Chloe – Wonder Women in sales, where are you?
Mia – Apprenticeships, education & diversity

There has been much discussion in the press lately about the gender imbalance between men and women within the work place. Gender salary gaps have been in the spotlight, and we’ve all heard stories over the years of women being passed over for promotion by their male peers, or being demoted after coming back from maternity leave. These are all real issues that need to be addressed and discussed, and I do think it is changing.

Hopefully, with the media, businesses, and even governments (Iceland comes to mind) having this in their consciousness, change will happen quicker than the baby steps we have taken in the past. However, as a woman working closely with a male dominated industry, I do feel the onus is on women within the industry and the next generation of girls coming into the workplace to break the mould, to believe they can get the top jobs (and dare to challenge when they don’t), and to embrace an industry that is crying out to hire women.

As a Wealth Management recruiter, I deal with a variety of roles at different levels and notice a real lack of women within certain fields. However, this isn’t due to companies not wanting to hire them, but what seems to be a shortage of female candidates. So why is this? Is it something instilled in us from a young age? Are Maths and Finance seen as subject for men? According to FMSP 37,000 girls in UK completed A-Level maths in the summer of 2017; however, only 4,400 went on to do A-level further maths. Clearly there is some sort of breakdown at this critical stage in life, where we girls are being put off studying maths to a higher level.

Diversity - financial services - superhero girl - Fram SearchAccording to an article written in the Guardian, more then a third more women go to University then men, so the drive to be highly educated and aspiration to be more is there, it just seems not in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) subjects. Do young women looking at career options not view these subjects as achievable goals? Do they not find them as interesting as other subjects? Or more worryingly, are they concerned that the careers they lead to are in male dominated industries and therefore feel their efforts will be futile? Whatever it may be, women who have broken that mould and made that leap into these areas, including Wealth Management, tend to be very successful.

I’ve spoken to a number of firms about their desire to make their businesses more diverse. They clearly understand that a diverse team makes for a better business, is more adaptable to a wider range of situations, and appeals to a wider range of clients. Indeed, women invest differently and have a different attitude to risk, which some studies have found may make us better investors. Many Wealth Management firms can offer flexible working, and yet they struggle to attract female candidates. It’s a conundrum facing many firms in many sectors.

So what do I think could be done better? Well, to encourage female candidates already in the work place, I think companies need to think about the way they go about recruiting women. Of course salary and bonus structure should be exactly the same as their male peers; however, flexibility is key for many women. As an example, the ability to work from home, manage their own diary, and the potential to work outside the normal 9-5 restraints are enormously appealing.

Studies have also shown the language used in job ads or a job descriptions can stop a women applying for a role. Words like “strong”, “superior” or “Influencing” are less likely to attract female candidates, whereas words like “sensitive”, “loyal” or “relationship” are subconsciously more attractive to women. To motivate the younger generations to consider financial services as a career, perhaps engaging with girls at A-levels by holding open days at colleges and schools, showing them that it is an industry for all, would help.

As an industry, financial services need to take a step back and look at the way they approach female candidates. I think we all agree, equality is key, and gender should not dictate what someone is paid, or whether a promotion is given. It should be based on ability to do the job. However, we must also agree men and women are generally different in the way we think, behave, and approach situations, so why not embrace these differences?

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