Need to Accelerate Senior Female Representation in Financial Services Sector

5th January 2023

Posted In: The Topic

Financial Services Irelandthe Ibec group that represents the sector, is calling on all financial services companies to make 2023 the year in which they accelerate efforts to increase female representation at senior levels.

Over the past month, Irish financial services companies have been filing their inaugural gender pay gap reports.

While it is clear significant progress has been made in recent years, women are still underrepresented at senior level across the financial services landscape

Although female representation in the general population of financial services firms tends to be equally balanced, significant differences emerge in the progression to more senior levels.

According to Central Bank analysis, females continue to be under-represented in revenue-generating roles such as CEO, or head of a business line, with 84% of these roles held by men as of December 2021.

Females are also under-represented among applicants for senior roles. Central Bank analysis shows that only 31% of applicants for Pre-Approval Controlled Function (PCF) roles within regulated firms were female in 2021 (up from 16% in 2012). Similarly, only 28% of applicants for board level roles were female (2020: 22%).

“We know that financial organisations are committed to achieving diversity and gender balance targets, but more needs to be done. Fundamentally it makes good business sense: fostering and harnessing the talent of women will ensure firms have access to a strong pipeline of talent,” said Financial Services Ireland Group Director Patricia Callan.

“Having a diverse workforce, which reflects the society in which financial services companies operate, will help those companies to succeed. Greater diversity of thought, experience, and leadership styles in decision-making processes will contribute to the economic benefit of the business, and the wider community as a whole.”

Women’s relative lack of progress at more senior levels in the industry can be attributed to a variety of factors, both organisational and personal. For example, from an organisational point of view, there can be structural issues in recruitment and promotion processes. We know that in Irish society, childcare responsibilities can fall disproportionately on women, so more Government investment is needed to support families and career progression. Where women are under-represented, or an organisation’s culture is insufficiently inclusive, this can have the effect of making women less confident, less motivated, and less aware of their own self-worth when it comes to career goals and progression.

There are a number of programmes that can help firms increase female representation. Through IFS Skillnet, and in collaboration with other industry bodies, Financial Services Ireland are supporting the sector in developing the skills and expertise of its workforce.

IFS Skillnet has developed the Advancing Women course for ambitious women who wish to improve their leadership skills. The course explores key leadership competencies from the female perspective while a practical focus ensures that participants can apply the lessons to their individual situation.

In addition, the IFS Skillnet Women in Leadership Take the Lead programme run in conjunction with the IMI gives participants the time and space to explore, develop and articulate who they want to be as a leader and the contribution they want to make to their work, their life, their organisation and the communities and markets they serve. It helps women to develop or reinforce their vision and goals, navigate their way through complex executive roles, and empowers them to create real change in their career and industry.

“Both of these programmes have been highly successful and the feedback we have received both from women who have participated and from member companies has been extremely positive,” said Patricia Callan.

“The industry is on a journey towards achieving the gender balance and diversity to which it aspires.

“We will continue designing and developing programmes that support our member companies and their people on that journey.”

Financial Services Ireland is also a supporter of the Women in Finance Charter, a collaboration between industry and the Government aimed at improving the number of women in management and board level positions to achieve better gender balance and a more inclusive working environment in financial services.