10 Surprising Findings About the Gender Gap at Financial Institutions

July 11, 2016

In a world where more than 1 billion women don’t have access to the most basic financial products, how do financial institutions with a focus on women’s financial inclusion ensure that their own staff also reflect the gender diversity they’re seeking?

In June, Women’s World Banking hosted a webinar titled “Using Data to Close the Gender Gap in the C-Suite of Financial Services.” The webinar, the second in our year-long series, took a close look at the data surrounding women’s representation at financial services companies, and what those institutions are doing to support workforce diversity and inclusion. Rachel Field, Director of Leadership and Diversity at Women’s World Banking, moderated the conversation between featured panelists Angela Sun, Head of Strategy and Corporate Development of Bloomberg LP, and Kathryn Burdett, Vice President and Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Americas, at Deutsche Bank AG.

GEI-Seal-FINAL-white-3Angela started out by discussing the origins of Bloomberg’s Gender Equality Index (GEI) for the financial services industry, inspired by an idea suggested by Women’s World Banking President CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian. This is the inaugural year for Bloomberg’s GEI, which included 26 public financial-services companies with a market cap of $15 billion or greater, ranging from Allianz and American Express to UBS and Visa. Rather than simply relying on publicly available data, Angela explained, Bloomberg reached out to the companies to get a deeper assessment of their diversity and inclusion efforts; these included not just gender statistics but also company policies related to gender (such as maternity leave); product offerings; and community engagement, for instance a firm’s support for organizations focused on gender diversity and legislation aimed at gender equality. The transparency of firms on those measures informed whether they would be included in the index.

Kathryn spoke about Deutsche Bank AG’s efforts to increase diversity and inclusion in its workforce; to promote and retain women across the institution; and to combat unconscious bias. The bank’s commitments to increasing gender equality range from extensive data-gathering to sponsorship and advocacy programs for women employees, as well as tailored leadership training for high-potential women. As Kathryn pointed out, “Research has shown us that women are promoted or given opportunities based on their performance while men are promoted or given opportunities based on their potential…This really impacts women’s rate of progress.” She also discussed the particular importance of promoting a culture of diversity and inclusion at a company such as Deutsche Bank AG, which employs people from 145 different nationalities. “Culture is critical,” Kathryn said. “What’s offered on paper and what happens in the day-to-day can be two different things…Cultures that are more diverse and inclusive lead to bottom-line results.”

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10 interesting facts that emerged from the webinar point the way to the kinds of changes that must happen in order for financial institutions, from corporate to microfinance, to achieve gender equity at all levels, for their staff as well as for the clients they serve.

  1. The average woman loses more than $430,000 over a 40-year career because of the lack of gender parity, according to the National Women’s Law Center.
  2. $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality, according to the McKinsey Global Institute.
  3. According to Bloomberg data, in the overall financial services industry, only 12% of corporate board members are women, while at GEI member firms, 26% of board members are women. Kathryn noted that “Our board [at Deutsche Bank Americas] is 35% female.” But she added, “While we are pleased with our representation and what we’ve achieved, the rate of progress is still very slow. We do indeed still see challenges in the pipeline.”
  4. The number of female CEOs among index members is zero. Banco Santander is the only firm with a female chairperson. “So there’s still a lot of work to be done there,” Angela noted.
  5. “GEI member firms on average have reached parity in their overall workforce, so they have 50% female employees,” Angela said. “But among that only 14% of executives at these firms are female. And when you compare this to Bloomberg’s World index, which captures data from 1000 global firms across sectors, you’ll see that overall workforce representation is approximately 36% women with 12% at the executive level.” So while GEI member firms in the financial services industry may have reached workforce parity, the firms have proportionally smaller representation of women at the top . “Women are either not being promoted or they’re dropping out voluntarily,” Angela noted.
  6. Research reveals that “one of the barriers in achieving an increase in women staff at all levels was the belief that… women get married and leave [and] women leave more often than men,” Rachel said of Women’s World Banking’s global work. “So because of this belief, many managers, even if unconsciously, preferred not to hire women.” But after working with a microfinance institution aiming to improve its gender diversity, “the reality was that men are actually leaving at a much higher rate than women….We see some of the dynamics [Kathryn and Angela] are talking about in our [diversity work with financial institutions] as well.”
  7. 85% of index members currently have a chief diversity officer or an equivalent role at the company. “This shows that diversity is important to the talent they’re trying to recruit,” Angela noted.
  8. 54% of GEI firms track the percentage of women in revenue-producing roles.
  9. A management tool developed by Deutsche Bank offers the following tips to managers to ensure women have the opportunity to advance to the highest levels: Allow them to gain the relevant experience; expose them to senior management; give them feedback; and not take no for an answer when it comes to advancement opportunities (in other words, managers must be “clear with them about how they will succeed and what support is there”).
  10. Women control only 1% of invested capital, Angela pointed out, citing a statistic from the Council on Foreign Relations. When it comes to achieving gender equality at all levels, men are a crucial part of the conversation. “Most people making financial and investment decisions are men. This [GEI data] is data that will be primarily put in front of men.”

Bloomberg plans to build on the findings of its inaugural GEI and will make the survey public and open the index for participation in September. The company also plans to expand the index to other sectors including consumer products, technology and the energy industry in the near future. Women’s World Banking looks forward to this expansion, particularly as gender diversity within financial institutions is a critical pillar to achieving our mission of bringing financial services to low-income women worldwide.