Women make up under a fifth of senior executive positions in UK financial services

Sep 19, 2017 | City A.M.

While Britain's biggest banks have been making strides on improving gender diversity in senior positions, many smaller financial services firms are lagging behind.

According to figures from the Financial Conduct Authority analysed by DHR International, under a fifth of chief executives, chief financial officers, and board directors among the UK's largest 280 financial services firms are women.

Executive search firm DHR said that diversity targets at the UK's five biggest banks have helped, where 28 percent of senior executives are female, but many smaller firms were struggling to improve the proportion of senior women. The number of female directors has edged up 1.2 percent on 2015.

DHR noted that the introduction of the Women in Finance Charter, which was launched in March last year, could put organisations under more pressure.

The charter devised by the Treasury seeks to build the pipeline of female talent for leadership positions, and it is gathering pace. It was announced in July that 25 new firms had signed up, taking the total number of companies involved to 141.

Over a quarter of those signed up have published diversity targets and committed to a 50/50 split in senior roles with a set date to achieve the target.

But, the five biggest banks in continental Europe are pushing ahead, with DHR saying 40 percent of their board members are women.

As with the larger UK banks, they had been under greater scrutiny to improve their gender diversity efforts, with France introducing a quota for publicly listed firms in 2011 to ensure women accounted for 40 percent of boards by 2017.

Simon Mansfield, managing partner, London at DHR International, said: “The percentage of women on the boards of the largest banks is substantially higher than the rest of the UK’s banks and building societies. This would suggest that firms that have been put under the spotlight are beginning to improve.”

“Initiatives to improve gender diversity such as setting quotas or using an external search agency have proved successful – and therefore other firms may begin to adopt these practices.”