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Few women join the banking boys’ club

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.

Comments (9)

  1. Quite frankly, I’m sick of this ‘women and the glass ceiling’ topic. If you are right for the job (black, white, male, female, ALIEN) then that’s ALL THAT MATTERS! Unlike many ‘power hungry’ men, many women may simply not want to sacrifice their entire lives at the office i.e. there are more important things to them than money i.e. family.

    Good on Gail Kelly. She is a very, very intelligent woman with amazing presence. From what I have seen of her, she is a natural leader and seems to be the right person for the job.

    I’m all for equal opportunity – totally and utterly 100% for it. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that if we push this ‘equal opportunity’ stuff too far then we are going to end up with the wrong person for the job, simply because their genre/sex/ethnicity is under-represented. That is definitely not equal opportunity – that is straight out bias.

    Do the math…If only 5% to 10% of applicants are women then expect only 5% to 10% of the top jobs to be held by women!!! That’s a bit of a no brainer!

    Boys club? That’s a corporate phrase that means nothing. Wherever you work (whether Maccas of Macquarie) it will always exist, not just at a bank!

    Would love to hear some opinions… Reply
  2. Most women I know would be horrified at working at a bank. But you do find women as banking/finance lawyers. They seem to like the law more. Asian women graduates is helping to change to gender mix.

    A lot of banking can be a bit abstract in its reliance on numbers. For some reason, this also turns women off.

    The blokey culture cannot be underestimated – especially in investment banking. Some men dont feel the same level of comraderie with women. The fact is you just can’t dismiss the importance of that.

    The women who thrive take no BS. They have a good understanding of men in the workplace. It’s all the soft skills and intangibles you need to do well.

  3. Sokrett,

    That was the most uninsightful blog I have heard in a while. Prefer to be lawyers? Asian women? Huh? What on earth are you talking about?

    Banking is not abstract. How does that make any sense whatsoever? Numbers are actually the most precise, ‘known’ parameter in business, more so than the law. They either add up or they don’t.

    Blokey culture cannot be underestimated? What the hell does that mean? Blokes are blokes! No duh…of course they will act like blokes! What about the ‘female culture’? Don’t many women hang around with other women?..Don’t hear men moaning about that! Get over it.

    Some men don’t feel that same level of comraderie with women? Nice one-sided argument? Doesn’t that work both ways? I don’t think either sex is at a disadvantage there.

    The women who thrive are the ones that are good. They have a good understanding of the business they are in, not of the men they work with. That’s a load of crap.

    Re-evaluate your take on the world of banking. You obviously think the job is about negotiating your way with men as opposed to having a brain and being a star at what you do!

  4. To hahaha,

    The comments about lawyers and asian grads was based on comments by recruiters and my own observation. I wasn’t expressing any judgement. I can see political correctness is alive and well.

    Numbers add up on a spreadsheet. But a model is an abstraction of the underlying reality which is unknown. The current repricing of credit risk is an example of the numbers playing catch up with the experience. Banking (as many other industries) is heavily reliant and models and projections.

    The comment about the blokely culture was simply to say that it’s a turnoff to some women. I wasn’t endorsing it.

  5. Don’t know what recruiters you are speaking to (or, for that matter, what observations you are making). I’m Asian, so not offended about the Asian comment you made – I just have no idea where you see this occurring.

    The numbers in banking are indeed based on models, but DCF models are not an ‘abstraction’ of reality. They do not deliberately make ‘simplifying’ assumptions (i.e. assumptions that ignore that certain aspects of reality – such as economic models). If we are talking about unknowns, then eveything in the future is ‘unknown’! As all industries rely on some sort of projection, there is no basis by which to argue that banking is any more abstract than most other professions.

    Blokey culture may be a turnoff to some women…indeed…is that some sort of discovery? Have you ever considered that a bunch of women hanging around and talking about Brad Pitt or what they bought when they went shopping on the weekend is a turnoff to men?

    What I mean to say is ‘what is the point of your comments?’ Men are men and women are women. Big woop. Get over it and understand that it will never change.

  6. The above points have are valid…. however, over the past 10 years of recruiting banking and finance roles at all levels. I have been privy to receiving briefs from senior/heads of divisions to source female bankers. My belief is the next trend will be reverse discrimination against their male counterparts. Women are being fast tracked in some cases twice as quickly as the men, to move into management roles. The chess board pieces are changing, it is every banks mandate to hire females in the droves, and in some cases some of the banks are insisting shortlists contain at least one female. Why…. banks need to live and breath equal employment opportunity and the big one “diversity”.

    James Freer – Freer Consulting Reply
  7. James,

    Was glad to have my views confirmed by a recruiter. I completely believe that reverse discrimination exists, but it will never be ‘tagged’ that way in the industry due to the fact that it sounds impossible to discriminate against men (the majority of the banking workforce).

    Quite frankly, I feel it’s a crock. Again, it demonstrates a complete lack of equal opportunity to incoming candidates – women really seem to have the upper hand in this day and age. As a man, it’s quite scary to know that I might be overelooked due to the need to fill the spot with a woman.

    Maybe I should turn gay/into a scientologist/say I’m really old/anything to make me a minority. Perhaps that is an effective way to fast track my career through the equal (oops, I mean unequal) opportunity channel.

    What a joke. Companies are really losing sight of simply hiring the ‘right person’ for the job. Perhaps the next big push should be to get more male secretaries, more women as army commandos, more men as makeup artists and manicurists, more men working for women’s magazines & tiny Asian women as security guards at Kings Cross nightclubs. That’ll really solve the problem – we can all be asexual!!

    Would love to hear some opinions… Reply
  8. What do you mean the ‘nex trend’. By the looks of what you are saying, it seems like it is occurring already!

  9. Diversity consultants in HR have good intentions but this does not translate to action when the business influences hiring.
    Competant women with excellent experience are often overlooked and it takes years to be rid of bad males hired because of people they know.
    I agree that women need to do a better job in broadcasting their achievements and stop believing that modesty is a virtue!

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