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Financial Services ‘Glass Ceiling’ Still Intact

21 November 2009

Lady with glass ceiling above her

An academic from Cardiff Business School has been working with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to find solutions to the financial services ‘glass ceiling’ which is still intact according to a major new report.

According to a recent Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) Inquiry, "no improvement" has been made in closing the gender divide in pay and opportunity within the Financial Services sector. Women in the finance sector working full-time earned up to 55 percent less annual average gross salary than their make colleagues – compared to the economy-wide gender pay gap of 28 per cent. Women are often still fulfilling secretarial roles whilst men progress higher up the hierarchy.

Dr Debbie Foster from Cardiff Business School who was part of the Academic Roundtable providing solutions to the problems identified by the Inquiry, said: "The Inquiry found that there is still gender segregation by job type within the Financial Services sector.

"The high proportion of workers in the 25-39 age group – the age at which employees tend to have children – also makes it harder for women to have a viable career in the sector.

"Whilst some companies have programmes to promote gender equality, such as flexible working practices, uptake of these programmes might not be encouraged in practice, meaning that they are little more than token gestures."

Other findings from the report were that often women within the sector appeared to be less qualified than their male counterparts; also the loyalty of female workers is not rewarded.

Dr Foster said: "The financial sector often expects employees to pursue postgraduate qualifications. Employees tend to do so in the evening, rather than being afforded time off work by their employer. As women tend to be the primary carer in the family home, they are often precluded from opportunities to develop their skills.

"It is generally accepted that women are more loyal workers, but as they are less likely to move jobs they are often passed over for promotion. Often their family life means that they cannot work long hours and research shows that ‘presenteeism’ – physically being present in the office regardless of productivity - leads to promotion."

Within the City the disparity in wages was the most stark, with men receiving five times the performance pay of women.

The EHRC’s recommendations for change include incorporating equality and diversity into organisational and individual objectives, ensuring maternity, paternity and parental support schemes are in place, and undertaking annual equal pay audits and publishing the data.

Dr Foster said: "Greater pay transparency would be a good first step towards tackling the inequalities in earnings – having knowledge of what contemporaries earn would provide a basis for challenging inequality."

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