Report highlights barriers to career progression for women in finance

Woman in boardroom


An alpha-male culture is holding back women in finance and unconscious bias can influence recruitment decisions as firms can be too focused on their culture and the “team fit”, according to a Treasury Select Committee report.

The Committee says diversity should be a higher priority in the finance sector and should affect all aspects of work culture. For instance, it says firms can have unnecessary legacy requirements in their recruitment processes, such as particular academic qualifications or requiring certain hours to be worked or frequent travel to be almost compulsory.

It strongly encourages firms to revisit their recruitment policies and practices on a regular basis to ensure that unconscious bias is eliminated at every stage of the process. It singles out the language used in the recruitment process and says companies should check that stated requirements for roles are actually necessary for performing the roles and are not deterring potential applicants.

The Committee recommends that firms’ senior leadership proactively ensures that barriers to gender diversity in recruitment are understood throughout the organisation and are removed.

It welcomes some companies’ recognition of the impact of maternity leave and says Government and employers need to do more to improve parents’ awareness of the opportunities to share childcare responsibilities, namely through the Shared Parental Leave scheme.

The Committee also calls on firms to consider extending the initiatives to support women during and after maternity leave to employees who have taken time away from work for other caring responsibilities.

Normalising Flexible Working in finance

Other issues include outreach work to girls to inform them of different career pathways in finance and flexible working. The report calls on senior managers, especially men, to lead by example in order to normalise flexible working. It also recommends that firms consider how roles could be done more flexibly.

Other recommendations include a call for the financial services sector to consider gender diversity as core to business strategies and to uphold gender diversity as a priority and for leadership to empower middle management to take risks and challenge their own assumptions and unconscious bias when recruiting and to ensure middle management are appropriately trained to manage more diverse teams.

The Committee says it will monitor firms’ progress in meeting gender pay gap targets and review the effectiveness of their strategies and adds that figures on partner pay should be included in gender pay audits. It says excluding them circumvents the spirit of the legislation and that this should be challenged vociferously by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It further calls on the government to look at initiatives that help firms improve gender balance at all levels of seniority.

Finally, the Committee encourages the Government to reconsider whether it is appropriate that subsidiaries of large companies with less than 250 employees are exempt from gender pay gap reporting and says the Government should consider expanding gender pay gap reporting to encompass reporting by job role and by corporate function, to offer greater transparency.

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