In conjunction with CFA UK's Finance is for Girls event on 8 March 2016, the CFA Society of the UK Women’s Network conducted the first of a series of surveys to capture a snapshot of current market dynamics in place around the issue of gender diversity.
98% of respondents to the survey were women with the results showing an overwhelming consensus (92%) that finance is an attractive career option for women, with school and university playing an instrumental role in inspiring women to enter the profession.
Virginie Maisonneuve, chair of the CFA UK’s Women’s Network, comments: “It is encouraging that a career in finance is viewed as attractive by such a large proportion of women and that universities have such a strong role to play in helping women select finance as a career choice. For the UK to maintain its position as a preeminent financial centre, it is clearly vital that we maintain the attractiveness of working in the sector so as to continue to draw in the best talent, and provide an optimal framework for firms to achieve strong sustainable performance driven by diverse teams.
“Gender diversity has been intensely discussed at the non-executive board level in the UK in the past few years and some clear achievements have been made. Pipeline issues, unconscious bias and pay gaps, however, are all regarded as areas with potential for further improvement. Gender-balanced teams provide better investment results and are better aligned with firms’ clients and global demographic dynamics. Leading change in gender diversity can be both challenging and rewarding for companies and demands both a bottom up and top down collaborative approach.
“CFA UK Women’s Network is currently speaking to a number of companies about the best way to implement initiatives to leverage the powerful impact of increased diversity Such initiatives, when executed well, can have a meaningful impact on asset managers’ and their employees’ performance.”
The CFA Society of the UK’s Women’s Network survey summary:
The survey had over 100 respondents and was dominated by women (98%). With regard to the composition of the respondents’ population in the survey, the largest group (41.4%) had a tenure in asset management ranging from 10 to 20 years while the remainder of the sample was balanced with 27% and 26% showing experience of over 20 years and five to ten years respectively. Only 5% had experience between 0 and five years.
77% of respondents stated that they are currently given equal opportunity at work and 92% say that finance offers an attractive career option. Nearly 40% of respondents said that their inspiration to enter finance came from school/university. Most respondents believed that having a supportive manager/sponsor was the greatest positive influence to their career. Additional supportive factors were general development courses and supportive policies with regard to flexible hours and maternity.
More than a third thought that when they faced gender issues, those emerged during the first five years of their career and 55% believed that bias is the major obstacle to their progress. While a large majority (77%) believe that they are given equal opportunity at work currently, 66% of the respondents believed that this was not always the case. In addition, two thirds (62%) of those polled said that they did not believe that women were paid equally to men in similar positions at their firm; only 14% said that they thought pay was similar.
Attractiveness of Finance
An overwhelming percentage (92%) of respondents find finance attractive as a career with the leading reason being intellectual stimulation (91%), closely followed by challenge (85%) and remuneration (78%). For the minority who did not find finance attractive, the two reasons overwhelmingly cited were the lack of flexible hours (88%) and poor attitude towards maternity /difficulty of reintegration post maternity (88%). On how to successfully balance career and domestic life the largest single factor (45%) chosen by respondents was domestic/family help. This is an important point given the profession’s long hours, but also given the cost of getting such help in London.
On the topic of gender issues and timing of such issues in their careers, 35% of respondents noted that the largest impact was in the early part of their careers or in the first five years, while a fifth (21%) said it emerged during the five to ten year period, and 17% cited the 10-20 year period. 18% of respondents claimed that gender had never been an issue during their career.
The implication that gender is more of an issue during the early years of a career in finance is corroborated by the fact that more than three quarters (77%) of survey respondents said that there are women in senior leadership positions in their firm. However, it appears that, whilst gender is not widely regarded as an impediment to progressing to senior roles within asset management firms, it is reflected in pay inequality.
Bias and unconscious bias, which are important ongoing topics of discussion for leaders striving to create both strong sustainable performance and high retention rate culture, were cited as the major obstacles to career progression by 56% of respondents. Only 16% of survey respondents cited discrimination as a “major obstacle” in their career, but 41% also mentioned that the lack of flexible hours was a significant barrier for them to optimise their career.