Gender Diversity in the Financial Sector

“It seems to me that women have made an awful lot of progress, but they probably remain underrepresented at the highest levels of most organisations, for a variety of reasons” – Janet Yellen, former US Federal Reserve Chairwoman

Hong Kong is one of the world’s main financial centres, with the sector contributing to 18% of GDP. The city is also ranked the third most attractive financial centre worldwide, behind London and New York City.

Despite the impressive numbers and top rankings, gender equity in the financial services industry is not something we can be proud of. According to “Gender Diversity in the Hong Kong Financial Services Sector”, a study released by TWF and PwC, women comprised 52% of entry-level positions. But the share fell to 33% at senior management level and plunged to 21% at board level. This underlines the “leaky pipeline” problem which plays a role in hindering women’s advancement.

The report, which was based on data from 15 financial institutions, challenged some common gender misconceptions. Although family obligations are generally mentioned as the main reason why women in Hong Kong leave the workforce, only 21% of companies surveyed said “lack of child-care options” or “cultural pressure to stay home” as top reasons why women left the financial sector. In contrast, three-quarters of women cited “lack of career progression” and other career opportunities as top reasons.

The survey also found that there was a gender gap on the perception of pay equity.72% of senior female employees felt that they don’t earn as much as their male counterparts, while only 23% of men in senior level positions agreed with that statement.

These findings highlight the disconnect that often occurs between how companies approach diversity solutions and women’s actual perceptions and experiences.

Gender diversity not only creates fairness but is also good for business. Financial services companies that are ranked in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams tend to perform well: they are 21% more likely to do better on profitability.

While the survey focuses on the financial services industry, it shines a light on the wider problem of workplace gender equality in Hong Kong. We know that our gender pay gap is wider than that of Singapore, Australia, the UK and the US. We are also aware that the share of women board directors here is lower than in other financial centres like the UK and Australia.

Check out the report here. We encourage everyone – regardless of sector –to read the findings and recommendations. How do they apply to your sector? How closely aligned are your gender diversity solutions to what are women are saying about these issues? Most importantly, how can we craft real and innovative solutions to support women’s career advancement and stem the “leaky pipeline”?

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Written by

The Women's Foundation