It’s 2022 and we should be operating in a time where there is equality in terms of opportunity, pay and treatment for both men and women in the financial services. But to our disappointment, there still remains a problem with gender bias. Our white paper – The Gender Gap: Change Starts With Bravery – explores the challenges facing financial services, the desire for change and the actions required to close the gap once and for all.
A key area within the paper centre on inequalities and barriers linked to life events that prevent or impede female careers in financial services.
Through our detailed research with over 100 professional females in wealth we learned that 50% of them have experienced barriers to progression linked to life events such as starting a family or caring for family members, a requirement for flexible working (family commitments) and menopause.
Many such life events are unavoidable, but the financial services industry remains, in the main, inflexible in the face of them. Something’s got to give and all too often it’s women’s career aspirations.
There must be a shift in the approach to maternity, to menopause and for more flexible working patterns. Without them, female financial service professionals will continue to trip over or bump into career barriers.
Starting a Family
One in 4 women in financial services say that maternity leave impedes career progression whether that’s potential to have children in the future, being pregnant or having just had a baby. Recruitment and promotion opportunities must still exist if she is the right person for the role.
Through our research we found that deciding to start a family goes hand in hand with making some career progression sacrifices.
Here are just two examples of experiences from the women we surveyed:
“During a period of maternity leave, my job was given to somebody else”
“I hid my pregnancy for almost five months whilst progressing through a promotion process”
A culture shift is needed to ensure equal opportunities for everyone. Where this is happening, women should be brave and call this out as unacceptable and begin the wave for change. Equally, their male counterparts should be brave in supporting a call for a change in attitude, culture and poor corporate behaviour
Equal Flexible Working Policies
Starting a family often calls for the need for flexible working, some women preferring to return to work part time. Our research highlights that this creates barriers for carrier progression.
While parents are busy starting their own families and adapting to family life with a career, older relatives are only aging further. As men and women approach the latter years of their working careers, estimated beyond 50, they may be required to become informal carers.
Flexibility is needed for all employees to adopt flexible working policies and practices that include being able to work from home and being able to work more amenable hours. The policy should allow all employees to achieve a balance to help them manage family or caring commitments around their employment. Senior managers should be helping to promote the policies in place for flexible working, leading by example by taking paternity/maternity leave, adapting hours to care for older relatives and children to show that the written policy is accepted and is worth the paper it is written on.
Flexible working needn’t have negative connotations. Companies may find that offering that flexibility will bring high quality employees back to the business when needed. Giving a person the opportunity to work the hours that most suit them around family commitments can mean that that person is more focused at work.
The pandemic has certainly changed the perception of flexible working. It will be interesting to see if this considerably changes the outlook for employers who in the past would not have favoured such working arrangements.
Regardless, working flexibly should absolutely not rule someone out of a promotion or job position. The technological advances of today allow so much more and this should be embraced.
A completely natural transition that will affect all females and half of the workforce and yet, a taboo subject that isn’t openly discussed. Menopause needs to be normalised.
The Menopause, as many within financial services are only now becoming aware, is another significant life event for a female professional that sadly can impact her career in a negative manner. Symptoms that often females don’t even associate with menopause can occur much earlier than expected.
The realisation that many women, for many years, have been so unaware of this phase of life and how much affect it can have is truly shocking. Added to which, many suffering females haven’t felt this can be discussed openly and honestly at home, let alone in the workplace.
The lack of communication and awareness around menopause has been passed through generations with many mothers of menopausal women not openly sharing their experiences either. It is an unavoidable process that every female will experience, it is entirely natural so why hasn’t it been discussed?
80% of women experience symptoms related to Menopause.
One out of 10 women quit their jobs due to menopause.
Employers have a duty to help raise awareness and remove the stigma. A menopause policy is a great place to start but putting the policy into practice is what is needed.
Open the conversation, make it a topic than can be openly discussed.
Click here to read our full white paper for more recommendations to close the gender gap.