Women in financial services face harsher barriers than in other industries
- The financial services industry is falling behind others in promoting the upward mobility of female employees, according to the results of a new PwC study. The firm polled 290 professional women in the industry as part of a broader global study of 3,627 women across several sectors.
- More than half of women in the poll who work in financial services believe their diversity status kept them from advancing in their organizations, and 43% said they face inappropriate language, bullying and insults. That's compared to averages of 45% and 34%, respectively, for women in other industries. Sixty percent of working mothers in financial services believe they were overlooked for advancement upon returning to work from parental leave, and more than half said that their companies' flexible work options weren't readily accessible or would negatively impact their careers.
- Other results from the study showed more than 60% of women in financial services successfully negotiated a promotion in the last two years, compared with less than half of women in other industries. PwC identified three target areas for businesses to focus on in supporting women's advancement: 1) convincing women that they can succeed; 2) actively identifying future leaders; and 3) creating a work environment that supports work-life balance.
Women are making progress in the boardroom statistically: the number of female directors at Fortune 500 companies rose by 10 percentage points between 2016 and 2017, according to a recent survey by Heidrick and Struggles. This may present a strategy for organizations aiming to improve diversity metrics, as women in high-level positions can demonstrate a pathway towards advancement for other women.
But persistent barriers to advancement and higher pay still exist for women, particularly women of color. In a Catalyst report released in February, women of color reported having their talents and achievements undermined. Their negative experiences on the job created an "emotional tax", that they said hinders both their progress and personal health. On that pay disparity front, a recent LeanIn.org study showed that African-American women earn 21% less than white women and 38% less than white men. Another study found that women of color are less likely to be promoted or receive a raise when requested.
As PwC points out, transparency is a crucial factor in improving pay and promotional opportunities for women. This includes open dialogue about the problems women face and pay and hiring disparities. Diversity and inclusion initiatives — oft-discussed in HR today — are just as important to an organization's culture as the way work gets done. HR professionals across all industries play a leading role in helping organizations in removing barriers to women.