However, there is a deeper gender divide in the industry. Despite the fact base outlined above, the industry’s perceptions of gender equity in the workplace do not match the reality.
When asked if their employer is transparent about its remuneration systems and parity of pay between genders, 51 per cent of men agree transparency and parity reigns, while 64.9 per cent of women disagree.
On the question of whether the pay gap in financial services is grossly exaggerated, 45.7 per cent of men agree or strongly agree that it is. By contrast, 52.6 per cent of women disagree or strongly disagree with this statement.
Why this is significant
The research raises significant questions about the industry’s awareness of the issues. It shows there is an opportunity to build understanding in the industry to promote informed debate about which strategies will be most beneficial to move the dial on women’s representation in leadership.
So why do men and women perceive the nature and extent of the gender divide in financial services differently, despite publicly reported information about the representation of women in leadership and the gender pay gap?
One reason is public reporting of information about gender equity in the workplace is relatively recent.
In Australia and New Zealand, listed entities led the charge through amendments to their listing rules in 2010 and 2012 respectively requiring companies to report gender composition at management and board level.
As of this year, Australian organisations employing more than 100 personnel are required to report to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) on a range of gender equality indicators, including gender composition of the workforce and equal remuneration between women and men.
Alarmingly, many employers are not arming themselves with the basic tools to assess the extent of the gender equity issues they seek to address. On Finsia’s reading, the gold standard of these is the gender pay gap analysis.
Coinciding with the release of Finsia’s research was analysis from the WGEA revealing only 26.3 per cent of organisations have measured gaps in remuneration based on gender. Encouragingly, in the finance and insurance services sector this figure is 51.2 per cent.
Measuring, tracking and recording detailed information about remuneration decisions, promotions and uptake of flexible work arrangements by both men and women is vital.
Public reporting of this information means organisations and industries can be compared — this informs public debate about workplaces and policy responses to address inequality and improve diversity.
The diversity dividend
The power of transparent reporting is revealed by an interview Finsia conducted with Origin Energy chair Gordon Cairns earlier this year.
Gordon was asked to comment on the moment when the benefits of workplace diversity resonated with him on an intellectual and emotional level.
“It struck me that we were recruiting from only 50 per cent of the gene pool, so we were actually limiting our ability to compete,” he said. “That for me was the turning point.”
This comment shows the power that facts play in expressing the dimensions of the gender divide in financial services and the thinking that is required to redress the balance.
Russell Thomas is CEO and Managing Director of Finsia.