Women held to higher standards across financial services compared to male counterparts, research finds

Women in financial services struggled more if they did not perform consistently well compared to their male counterparts due to bias, social norms, sexism and difficulty among women to gain recognition on their performance, a new report by Women in Banking and Finance (WIBF), and the London School of Economics (LSE) found. 

A further finding of the research surrounds the tendency for managers to fake empathy when managing women, recognising that the trait was now very valuable.

The report said that “women are being held to higher standards – ridiculed or celebrated – with fewer opportunities to drop the ball than men.” Furthermore, below-average men often survived because they played good politics, bringing this ethos into their management approach as gatekeepers to opportunities for emerging talent. It said that women were less likely to get opportunities under these leaders and often had their progression blocked.

The study identifies suggested actions that businesses should take to reduce headwinds relayed by women. Equally valuable is information about tailwinds and how businesses can replicate or artificially build tailwinds to improve women’s growth and retention. This has clear benefits, given that the first year of WIBF’s Accelerated Change Collaborative Research Program focuses on the “missing middle”. Reducing headwinds and increasing tailwinds will help maintain industry talent at this important vulnerable point in women’s careers.

The survey strategically targets women who work in areas with a high proportion of men and women who have a lot of gender equality but look like a glass ceiling.

Based on the findings, WIBF and LSE created a GOOD FINANCE framework to help bring inclusiveness to financial services companies and move the sector through to its next gender convergence. This framework consists of actions that companies can take to retain and develop the most talented employees including women.

Speaking about the report, LSE Director of The Inclusion Initiative Dr Grace Lordan said, “Having the opportunities of talented women guarded by managers that favour people ‘like them’ and play bad politics is detrimental for financial services in terms of innovation.

“The final gender convergence will only come when financial services have  managers across all levels of seniority who embrace an inclusive leadership style that ensures the voices of all talent are heard because they are certain it is better for their own objectives.”

WIBF president and CEO Anna Lane added, “Diversity and inclusion remains a significant issue in financial services and it can be difficult to identify the success of D&I programmes.”

“Although some initiatives have clearly delivered others need rethinking; this was a key driver behind the Good Finance framework.”

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