Women held back in banking

Just 11% of corporate managers and senior executives in banking are women with women held back by a culture of presenteeism and the denial of the existence a glass ceiling by many senior managers, according to a report by the Institute of Leadership and Management.

Just 11% of corporate managers and senior executives in banking are women with women held back by a culture of presenteeism and the denial of the existence a glass ceiling by many senior managers, according to a report by the Institute of Leadership and Management.

The survey provides evidence of a range of barriers that are impeding women’s career progress in banking. Half of the women surveyed (48%) said that barriers to progression for women existed in their organisation, and 36% of men agreed. These barriers, collectively labelled as the glass ceiling, become more visible as women progressed in their careers. A third of women in junior roles said they thought a glass ceiling existed for women where they worked, rising to 61% of women in middle management roles.

The reverse was true for men; 31% of men at junior level said a glass ceiling existed in their organisation, dropping to 23% of men at middle management level.

A range of factors are causing women to either opt out of banking altogether or halt their career progression, the survey found.

One third of women, and a quarter of men, believed that there were fewer women in senior positions because of family or personal commitments.

Almost three quarters of women (72%) said the attitudes of senior male managers were a barrier to women progressing into senior roles. Women also saw the current culture in their organisation (61%) as a major issue halting progression to senior management levels.

The women believed that men tended to recruit and promote in their own image and through male-dominated networks, rather than on merit alone.

Some 70% of women surveyed said the existing greater proportion of men in senior roles halted the career progress of women.

There was little belief in banking as a meritocracy – only 22% of all respondents, both male and female, agreed that ‘people here are promoted based on merit alone’ while almost half (48%) agreed that ‘in my organisation, promotion is determined by who you know’.

Both men and women felt banking was lacking in opportunities to work flexibly and remotely. Three quarters (76%) of women and 66% of men said that ‘opportunities for working flexible hours or working from home would be a benefit for me’. 68% of women felt that positive action to increase availability of flexible working would be the biggest boon to progression for women.

The current presenteeism culture, which rewards attendance over output, presents a major barrier to implementing effective flexible working, respondents said. Many women felt unable to take advantage of flexible working because of negative attitudes towards people working remotely. Interviewees indicated that employees not seen ‘at their desk’ were often sidelined or perceived by colleagues as less effective or simply ‘skiving’.

Interviewees wanted to see more job share roles, flexible hours, and the opportunity to work remotely becoming widely available and culturally accepted in banking organisations. While many companies offer these options as part of a flexible working policy, effective communication, implementation and cultural acceptance of these ways of working was still lacking, according to respondents, due to prevailing attitudes and culture.

Women also expressed a need for more female role models at senior level, and 41% of women cited a lack of female role models as a barrier to women’s progression. Some of the women interviewed added that they needed a role model they could identify with, rather than a senior woman who has ‘given up everything’ to get to the top.

The report called for a change in culture and attitude, led from the top, with managers at all levels being educated about the issues which are holding back women’s career progression.

It also called for clear criteria for ranking employees on output rather than hours, and performance excellence rather than connections as well as better measurement of diversity issues.

The report found a relatively low proportion of men in senior positions acknowledge the existence of a glass ceiling in banking (20%) compared to 55% of senior women.

The report also called for mentoring programmes and women’s networks in banking organisations and it emphasised the need for flexible working at all levels.





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