The gender pay gap in the financial services sector

The latest gender pay gap figures show finance and insurance still in the top three for the highest gaps.

Illustration of gender pay gap with money and seesaw - FTSE100 directors


Financial and insurance are traditionally among the sectors with the highest gender pay gap, given that men tend to predominate at the top of organisations and in roles that attract large bonuses.

The deadline for the 2021/22 gender pay gap figures closed at midnight on 4th April for private sector companies and 31st March for public sector organisations. Of the 10,243 employers who have now published their gender pay gaps, 481 were in the financial and insurance activities sector. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development says finance and insurance has the second highest gender pay gap this year at 22.5%, with construction having the highest gap and education in third place.  


According to Pwc, the top five gender mean* pay gaps by sector in 2020 were all within financial services – building societies, insurance, investment, banking and real estate – and change to close these gaps is happening very slowly. Its four-year analysis recommends a range of ways that employers can tackle the gender pay gap, from greater transparency, promoting an inclusive culture and using data analysis to pinpoint where action can be most effective and to monitor progress to looking at pay grading and other issues that may impact the pay gap.  

Funding agency TIC Finance has analysed last year’s figures in banking alone and says men were paid an average of 33.6% more than women, with men slightly more represented in the industry as a whole. 45.3% of financial services employees were female, but women accounted for just 28% of those in the top pay quartile and 62% of those in the lowest pay quartile. Although women and men were similarly likely to be paid bonuses in the sector, there was a  44% difference in bonus pay in favour of men, says TIC Finance.  Not a single company paid women equally or more than men – it found the smallest wage gap reported to be 15.6% by Monzo Bank Ltd, an online bank which launched in 2015.

This year, Reuters has collated pay gap data from 21 major financial institutions and found the average mean pay gap was 32.1%, slightly more than 1% narrower than the previous year, with Goldman Sachs having the largest gap amongst those surveyed at 51.3%, slightly down on 51.8% the previous year.

Why is there such a big gap?

Within the different parts of the finance and insurance sector there are a large range of different jobs that attract very different levels of pay. 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. 

Each area of financial services 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, although if there is little movement at the top the pace of change can be glacial and 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. Part of this is about having policies around things like flexible working and equal parental pay, but having policies is not enough. People have to be encouraged to take them up. So underlying cultural issues play a big part, with action needed on bullying, unconscious bias and outright discrimination. 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*:

At HSBC Bank Plc, which includes HSBC’s global banking and markets business, women’s median hourly pay is 51.3% lower than men’s. This compares with 54% last year – the highest in banking – and 61% in 2018/19] so some progress has been made. In large part the gap is due to the top echelons of the company being male-dominated – just 12% of the top earners are women [up from 9% last year] compared with 58% of its lowest earners [54% last year]. Women’s median bonus pay is 72.2% lower than men’s [up from 67.5% last year] and their mean bonus pay is 61.2% lower than men’s [down from 64.4% last year]. Men and women were almost equally likely to receive a bonus.

HSBC’s figures include an associated report which talks about the bank’s commitment to inclusion. It says it aims to have 35% women in senior leadership roles by 2025 – and is currently at 31.7%. It singles out its global Accelerating Female Leaders programme and HSBC Roar, a coaching and networking programme for female entrepreneurs, as signs of its commitment to gender equality. On recruitment, it says it introduced mandatory training for active hiring managers on addressing all kinds of bias in early 2021 and that 13,715 hiring managers completed this in 2021. It has expanded its recruitment partners to include specialist firms and says that last year 37.6% of externally hired senior leaders were women (up 6% on previous year) and that in 2021, 51.7% of new graduates were women (up 7.8% on previous year).

Meanwhile, HSBC UK, which includes the company’s UK retail banking operations, has a median hourly pay gap of 19.3% and a mean pay gap of 30.5% [compared to just over 32.9% last year].  39% of its highest paid employees are women – and 69% of its lowest paid ones.

In HSBC Global Asset Management [UK] Ltd women’s median hourly pay is 21.1% lower than men’s and their mean hourly pay is 16.3% lower than men’s. 23% of the highest paid employees are women, but men predominate in the lowest paid ranks by 52% to 48%.

At Barclays Bank Plc women’s median hourly pay is 34.5% lower than men’s and their mean hourly pay is 43.2% lower than men’s [compared to 42.1% last year]. Women occupy 18% of the highest paid jobs [19% last year] and 56% of the lowest paid jobs [the same as last year]. Women’s median bonus pay is 62.4% lower than men’s [up from 58.6%  last year] and their mean bonus pay is 69.9% lower than men’s [up from 66.8% last year]. Barclays Bank UK Plc – which includes high street banks – has a median pay gap of 13.5% [down from 14.1% last year] and a mean gap of 24.1% [down from 24.5% last year]. 

Barclays says its actions on diversity and inclusion are focused on increasing the number of underrepresented minority employees they hire; providing more Black and ethnically diverse colleagues with access to career and development opportunities; creating a culture of allyship across the organisation; and being transparent and measuring its outcomes.

On the increase in its gender bonus gap, it says this is largely due to the reward strategy introduced in its Barclays UK business in July 2019, which increased salary for around 19,500 junior employees while making a corresponding reduction to bonus pay. This increased the proportion of junior staff’s pay that is delivered as salary, which is pensionable, and decreased the portion delivered as bonus. It says that, because the benefitting population has a large proportion of women, this has resulted in a decrease in the hourly pay gap but an increase to the bonus pay gap – more women have had their salary increased whilst their bonuses were reduced accordingly. 

Barclays also says that it has focused attention on increasing the number of women in senior roles, with the proportion in the UK increasing from 24% at the end of 2016 to 30% at the end of 2021. Over the same time period, it says female headcount in senior roles has increased by 38% whilst male headcount increased by just 1%. It adds that this is largely the result of actions taken to actively promote females into more senior roles internally and to actively identify female talent in the market.

Lloyds Banking Group has a mean gender pay gap of 29.9% [down from 30.5% the year before] and a median gap of 34.2% [up from 33.6% last year]. Its mean bonus gap is 41% [compared to 62.5% last year] and its median bonus gap is 22.7% [down from 69.5% last year]. 28.5% of women receive bonuses compared to 52.3% of men. 37.5% of the highest paid employees are women and 71.3% of the lowest paid employees. Lloyds says that it recognises that promoting more women into senior roles is the way to reduce its gender pay gap. To this effect it has introduced a new target for 50% women in senior roles by 2025. 

At investment bank UBS, women’s  median hourly pay is 36.8% lower than men’s [down from  last year] and their mean hourly pay is 41.8% lower than men’s [41.1% last year]. Women occupy 19.9% of the highest paid jobs – a slight drop from 20.1%  last year –  and 56.4% of the lowest paid jobs [down from 57.4%  last year]. Women’s median bonus pay is 70.1% lower than men’s [up from 67.5% last year] and their mean bonus pay gap is 63.7% lower than men’s [also up from 59.6%  last year].

UBS says it takes “a multi-pronged approach to the gender pay gap, examining the process, culture and organisation design elements around hiring, promoting and retaining women at all levels” and aspires to grow its senior representation of women to 30% by 2025 across the firm. It also highlights its returner programme, the Career Comeback programme, as one part of its efforts to get more women into senior roles. 

Meanwhile, Metro Bank, which is focused on retail, has a median hourly pay gap of 12.2% [up from 11.7% last year] and a mean gap of 20.1% [down from 21.1% last year]. Women occupy 30.3% of the highest paid jobs [compared to 32% last year] and 48.7% of the lowest paid jobs [compared to 50% last year]. Women’s median bonus pay is 45.3% lower than men’s [60% last year] and its mean gap is 31.6% [compared to 22.7% last year]. 

Its report highlights its Women on Work colleague network, mentoring circles and leadership seminars, its provision of diverse candidate shortlists to hiring managers, its Opportunities career development programme for employees from diverse backgrounds, including women. It launched a cohort of 20 employees in July 2021 (65% female), with a 12-month programme of tutorials focused on enhancing skills and raising profiles backed by sponsorship from the Executive Committee and senior leaders and has recently appointed a Director of Colleague Experience and Inclusion who will launch its Diversity and Inclusion Strategy in 2022.

Starling Bank, founded in 2014 by Anne Boden, has a median hourly pay of 10.3% [compared to 15.6% last year] and a mean gap of 16.1% [21.3% last year]. Women occupy 26% of the highest paid jobs [slightly down on last year’s figure of 26.3%] and 47% of the lowest paid jobs [down from 49.6% last year]. However, women’s median bonus pay is the same as men’s, but their mean bonus pay is 56.2% lower than men’s after being significantly higher for women the year before. However, very few employees receive bonuses and slightly more women get them than men. 

Working towards gender diversity 

The Financial Services Compensation Scheme won WM People’s Best for Diversity & Inclusion Award in 2022. will publish information on its award-winning policies and practice in our Best Practice Report in May. 

UBS won Best for Line Manager Support Award in 2021. 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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