UK banks lagging behind in diversity after 10,000 women left their jobs in 2020

The number of women at the UK’s five biggest financial companies plummeted by 3% during 2020, posing a serious question to the sector’s diversity pledges.

While around 10,000 women left their jobs at financial institutions in 2020, men – on the other hand – saw a decline of around 2.1% as banks continued to push ahead with long-planned cuts to counter the Covid-19 crisis.

NatWest saw a dip by 9% in the roles filled by women compared to a 5.2% fall in men and Standard Chartered Bank’s female staff declined by 2.2% with the same number of men being retained.

It’s worth noting that the aforementioned banks along with Barclays, Lloyds and HSBC, employ around half a million people globally.

This glaring difference in diversity is being attributed to a host of reasons, primarily being the Covid-19-induced work from home norms where female staff have had to juggle work and other responsibilities. For instance, at Standard Chartered, the gap between male and female job losses “probably relates to the fact that children were home being home-schooled and that burden within the family fell disproportionately to women,” chief executive officer Bill Winters said in an interview with Bloomberg.

Another challenge facing the FinTech industry is the lack of senior leadership promotions for women. The Financial services sector has been among the slowest to make notable progress when it comes to women in corporate leadership. Following a government-led review of the shortfall of women in senior positions in 2016, more than 300 firms signed a pledge to hire more female executives.

Warning the industry of the consequences of lack of diversity, Oliver Wyman principal at consultancy Jessica Clempner said, “If we continue to lose women from the workforce, the industry will get further away from filling this gap​​​​.”

However, some financial institutions are making changes. Citigroup is leading globally with most female board members after the appointment of Jane Fraser as chief executive officer, according to a report by Bloomberg. Half of Citigroup’s 16-person board are now comprised of women.

Following closely after Citigroup is Credit Agricole SA which ranked second with women making up 47.6% of its board, followed by Societe Generale SA and BNP Paribas SA.

On a rather disappointing note, women occupy 25% or lesser of the board at Wells Fargo & Co. and Barclays Plc, while those in China and Japan remain largely male-dominated therefore scoring the least in diverse boards among top global firms, the report showed.

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