The gender pay gap in financial services looks at what this year’s figures show about the gender pay gap in financial services.


Some of the highest gender pay gaps are often found in financial and insurance activities, given the big gap in earnings between those at the top and those at the bottom, the fact women are more likely to be in junior rather than senior positions and the impact of bonuses.

The deadline for the second gender pay gap figures closed at midnight on 5th October. Of the 9,628 employers with over 250 employees who filed figures by that deadline, 470 were in the financial and insurance activities sector. The BBC reports an overall gender pay gap in the sector of 24%, one of the largest this year. The FT says the gap has widened since 2018, with firms like HSBC and Lloyds seeing a slight rise in their gap while others such as Barclays have seen a slight decrease.

The financial services industry covers a raft of different types of business and within those businesses are very different types of jobs – and earnings.

Banking, for instance, includes everything from high street or retail banking to investment banking and asset management. Women tend to be more concentrated in retail banking, where jobs are more local and where earnings tend to be lower.

The jobs in investment banking and asset management which attract high bonuses tend to be taken by men.

Each area of banking has its own particular issues with regard to gender diversity. For some attracting women is a huge issue and this has a big impact on the pipeline to senior positions, but getting more women in at the junior level can increase gender pay gaps in the short term.

In others, there is not such a big problem with attracting women, but there is an issue with retention, particularly after childbirth, and with promotion into senior roles as well as with the availability of senior part-time roles.

Partly this is a cultural and legacy problem – a male-dominated culture and underlying unconscious bias towards women makes it difficult for women to progress.

Older organisations also tend to be more hierarchical and more male-dominated and have a harder job to turn that around.

Banks and the GPG figures  

Here are a selection of some of this year’s figures*

HSBC Bank Plc, which includes HSBC’s global banking and markets business, has a 54% gender pay gap  [down from  61% in 2018/19]. In large part this is due to the top echelons being male-dominated – just 9% of the top earners are women compared with 54% of its lowest earners. Women’s median bonus pay is 67.5% lower than men’s and their mean bonus pay is 64.4% lower than men’s.

Meanwhile, HSBC UK, which includes the company’s UK retail banking operations, has a mean pay gap of just over 32.9%.  The aggregate mean gender pay gap figure from all parts of HSBC is 48.3% [down from 51.1% the previous year]. The median is 48% [compared to 47.8% the year before].

HSBC says that, unlike some of its peers, its aggregate UK-wide figures include the Global Banking and Markets business which has a predominance of men in senior, higher-paid roles and that  a significant number of senior, global roles are based in their UK head office and therefore count towards its figures.

Moreover, part-time employees (predominantly women) receive their bonuses on a ‘pro-rata’ basis, which the gender pay gap calculation does not take into account. 

When it comes to action, HSBC talks about its senior leadership targets for women [35% by 2025], its accelerated leadership development, its support [including a family hub, flexible working and improved parental leave from this year], its employee network groups and its work on more gender balanced recruitment of graduates and training of hiring managers in diversity and inclusion. 

At Barclays Bank Plc women’s median hourly pay is 34% lower than men’s and their mean hourly pay is 42.1% lower than men’s. Women occupy 19% of the highest paid jobs and 56% of the lowest paid jobs. Women’s median bonus pay is 58.6% lower than men’s and their mean bonus pay is 66.8% lower than men’s. Barclays Bank UK Plc – which includes high street banks – has a median pay gap of 14.1% and a mean gap of 24.5%. 

Barclays says its actions to close the gender pay gap are focused on increasing the number of female employees at senior levels in the organisation, including through setting targets for individual business areas, through the development of a gender diversity dashboard and diversity champions, through actively identifying female talent in the market and through monitoring its promotion process and building its internal pipeline as well as sponsorship and development programmes.

Lloyds Banking Group has a mean gender pay gap of 30.5% and a median gap of 33.6%. Its mean bonus gap is 62.5% and its median bonus gap is 69.5%. It says the reduction in its pay gaps is due to an improvement in gender representation across the business, with an increase in the proportion of female colleagues in senior roles. Its biggest barrier is a higher proportion of women in more junior levels and a lack of women in more senior roles.

At UBS, women’s  median hourly pay is 38% lower than men’s and their mean hourly pay is 41.1% lower than men’s. Women occupy 20.1% of the highest paid jobs and 57.4% of the lowest paid jobs. Women’s median bonus pay is 67.5% lower than men’s and their mean bonus pay gap is 59.6% lower than men’s.

It says: “Our gender pay gap reflects a representation gap caused by having unequal numbers of men and women at each level at UBS, with a greater proportion of men in our more senior, higher paying roles. Our pay gap will only be narrowed by increasing the number of women in higher paying leadership and revenue-generating roles and we need to continue to focus on creating and leveraging the opportunities to do this whilst maintaining our culture of meritocracy and pay for performance.”

Its report highlights how it is focusing on hiring more women, with 27% of senior UK positions filled with female candidates compared to 17% in 2018. Of all UK open positions, 34% have been filled by women in 2020 up from 33% two years ago. Its award-winning returner programme, the Career Comeback programme, is part of efforts to get more women into senior roles. Another focus is promotion, for instance, through employee network support, and it has worked hard on retention which includes line manager training, tools to enable career progression, the appointment of an internal anti-harassment officer, parental support and menopause support. When it comes to the pandemic, UBS has recognised the mental health issues that many have faced, has also provided virtual networking groups and has put resources into its virtual onboarding process.

Meanwhile, Metro Bank, which is focused on retail, has a median hourly pay of 11.7% and a mean gap of 21.1%. Women occupy 32% of the highest paid jobs and 50% of the lowest paid jobs. Women’s median bonus pay is 60% lower than men’s and its mean gap is 22.7%. It has not provided an action plan.

Starling Bank, founded in 2014 by Anne Boden, has a median hourly pay of 15.6% and a mean gap of 21.3%. Women occupy 26.3% of the highest paid jobs and 49.6% of the lowest paid jobs. However, women’s median bonus pay is 190% higher than men’s and their mean bonus pay is 190% higher than men’s, although very few employees receive bonuses and slightly more women get them than men. Starling has not provided an action plan.

Working towards gender diversity 

Lloyds Banking Group won’s Overall Top Employer Award in 2017. Read about how it is working towards greater gender diversity at all levels here.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch won’s Top Employer Award for Career Progression. Read what they are doing here.

UBS won Best for Line Manager Support Award in 2020. Read about it here

*NB The mean gender pay gap is a measure of the difference between women’s mean – average – hourly wage and men’s mean hourly wage. The gender pay gap includes a figure for mean hourly pay and for median hourly pay. The median gender pay gap is the difference between women’s median hourly wage (the middle paid woman) and men’s median hourly wage (the middle paid man).

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