Wednesday 20 June 2018

Special Report: Almost 90 per cent of CEO positions in financial services held by men

It is only four levels down from CEO where women outnumber men at a 54pc female to 46pc male split

FBD CEO Fiona Muldoon, one of only three female chief executives of an ISE-listed firm, says the pace of change must accelerate
FBD CEO Fiona Muldoon, one of only three female chief executives of an ISE-listed firm, says the pace of change must accelerate

Dearbhail McDonald, Colm Kelpie and Adrian Weckler

A landmark study of women working in financial services in Ireland has revealed a "staggering" gap between women and men occupying senior executive roles in the sector, prompting calls for the introduction of gender targets.

The study - commissioned by the 30% Club, a global organisation that campaigns on the issue - has revealed that 87pc of CEO positions are held by men. This is despite a 50/50 split of men and women working in financial services here.

One level down from CEO, men hold 72pc of leadership roles. It is only four levels down from CEO where women outnumber men at a 54pc female to 46pc male split.

In a finding that poses significant challenges to attitudes towards women working in financial services, one in five men said that they believed that "personal choice" is the biggest barrier to female career progression.

The 30% Club study of women in financial services, published today, comes as separate research by the Irish Independent found that just 3pc of venture capital in Ireland goes to female-founded companies.

Of €781m placed in 153 tech and biotech companies in Ireland last year, just €24m went to a firm with a woman at or near the helm.

Of 132 VC-funded Irish tech firms founded by men, all have a male CEO. By comparison, 12 of the 21 VC-funded Irish tech firms with a female co-founded have a woman as CEO

Yesterday, the National Women's Council of Ireland called for laws to be introduced that oblige companies to publish pay information broken down by gender and called for the introduction of quotas to increase the representation of women on boards of private companies.

Writing in today's Business Week, FBD CEO Fiona Muldoon - one of only three female CEOs of an ISE-listed company - described the executive divide in the financial sector here as "staggering".

"We urgently need to pick up the pace of change," writes Ms Muldoon, who says that gender balance needs to be addressed more widely at executive level and all layers of management.

The survey conducted on behalf of the 30% Club by Coyne Research, reveals that parents working in the sector believe that flexibility with start and working times, as well as companies facilitating remote working, were the top policies firms should have in place.

But more than four out of 10 are afraid that if they avail of flexible working arrangements it will harm their career.

The study found that only 3pc of men availed of a reduced schedule, where available, compared to 31pc of women.

Ms Muldoon said that parents must be provided with real choices at all career levels.

The 30% Club survey, sponsored by AIB, polled 23 leading companies representing more than 42,000 employees across banking, fund services and insurance. In addition, 1,671 individuals took part.

Carol Andrews, MD of BNY Mellon and Ireland country lead for the 30% Club, said that there are clear markers in the report as to how the gender deficit at senior levels in the financial services sector can be addressed.

Ms Andrews said that whilst people are "naturally sensitive" to targets and quotas, they can provide a clearer path towards gender parity at senior levels.

"We believe they should be implemented at all management levels to ensure the pipeline is more balanced all the way up to the most senior executive level," she said.

Yesterday, Orla O'Connor, director of the National Women's Council of Ireland (NWCI), told a Government symposium on gender pay that an increasing gap still exists - it is currently 14pc - and argued it was time for the Government to take serious actions to close it.

"We must look at addressing wider inequalities for women that feed into the gender pay gap, such as the high proportion of women working in low-paid sectors, such as retail, childcare or the hospitality sector," she said. "Aligning the minimum wage with the living wage, and investing in affordable, accessible, quality childcare will all positively impact greater pay equality."

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan told the Dublin event that over the past year, the gender pay gap has "gripped the public imagination as never before".

Mr Flanagan said there was an element of "injustice" in the current pay regime and that he was anxious to address that "imbalance".

Dr Orlaigh Quinn, secretary general of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, told the symposium that she is just the eighth women in the history of the State to reach such a senior level in the civil service. Dr Quinn said pay transparency exists in the civil service, but that there are issues with women in senior leadership roles. She added that the disparity arises because there are not enough women coming forward for senior level roles.

In August, the Government launched a public consultation paper on how to tackle the gender pay gap. Mr Flanagan said 38 written responses were received. Responses to a question about why the pay gap existed produced a range of responses, from undervaluing of work and skills associated with women, to difficulties balancing work and family responsibilities, including access to childcare.

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