Few women join the banking boys' club

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When former St George Bank chief executive Gail Kelly moves across to become CEO of Westpac next February she will still be the only female in Australia to head a bank.

While all the major and second-tier Australian banks have experienced businesswomen on their boards as non-executive directors, women are still very much in a minority across the banks' senior executive management ranks.

This is also despite the fact that all the banks have 'diversity specialists', or equal opportunity experts, working within their human resources teams.

Luke Heath, chief executive of recruitment firm Chandler Heath, confirms the sad truth: women are still under-represented in senior roles within the banking sector.

"For every role, we see somewhere between 5% and 10% of the candidate pool is female. Even at graduate level, we disproportionately see male applicants ... and the further up the pyramid you go the thinner it gets. It's not related to talent or drive, it's the small numbers on the way in."

Robin Billen, of Horton International, says the lack of women in banking is also evident across other sectors.

"You could say that banking is a bit of a macho industry, something of a boys' club, but the absence of women affects a range of private-sector industries."

Heath says the banks are genuinely interested in having more women in roles but are finding it difficult to achieve their aim. Now may be the time for women who'd like a financial career to give them a helping hand - simply by sending in their CVs.