Women bankers wanted

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Australia's banks have been quietly trying to hire more women, but the industry is still a bastion of masculinity.

"We have some employers who are still concerned that their executive ranks remain something of a boys club," says Matthew Gowan, a Melbourne-based specialist in banking at recruitment group Hays.

"They say if they have male and female candidates of the same quality, then they may pick the female to balance things up."

However, the emergence of women in senior executive roles in the Australian banking industry - including Gail Kelly, the CEO of St George Bank - has meant that the dynamics of the market have changed in recent years.

"There has been a number of examples of women making it through to the top, and I think that has encouraged more women to move into the sector, and has made it easier for banks to find the best talent, be they male or female," said Ian Wilson, an executive director of Boyden Global Search.

"There is no longer a deliberate push by employers to hire women simply for the sake of it," said Michael Markiewicz, the managing director of executive search and recruitment firm Carmichael Fisher. "The banking sector, in a broad sense, is well populated by women."

Markiewiecz says some banks sometimes specifically ask for a woman candidate to be placed on a short list for a certain position, but recruiters needed to be careful of doing so simply for the sake of having a woman on the list.

"You have to do it for the right reason," he said. "Women don't want to be put on a short list just to be there. That's a policy that will backfire - both for the employer and the recruitment firm.

He says women tend to be in the majority in areas such as sales and marketing, but trading floors remain dominated by males.