WHITE COLLAR
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Financial firms lead in gender diversity, but men still dominate the top jobs

A report by Morgan Stanley finds that just 16 per cent of senior executive roles across the sector are held by women

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 February, 2017, 3:49pm
UPDATED : Monday, 27 February, 2017, 3:49pm

At first glance, it appears the financial sector has managed to achieve an enviable gender balance in the workforce, with an even split between men and women.

But on closer inspection, a clear disparity can be seen at the top. When it comes to the C-level jobs - referring to chief executive posts - it turns out men are still the dominant force.

Over all, according to a Morgan Stanley research paper, the global financial sector has the best employee gender balance of all industries - a 50:50 ratio of male and female employees.

By comparison, in the materials and utilities sector, only 20 to 25 per cent of the workforce is female, according to the report, entitled Gender Diversity: Profile of the Financial Sector, led by equity strategist Eva Zlotnicka.

But a closer look at the details shows that, among the 155 global financial firms surveyed, the higher ranking, higher paying jobs are still the domain of men.

At the board level only slightly more than 20 per cent of directors are female, according to the study, while the figure is about 30 per cent for managers and just 16 per cent for senior executives.

The pay gap between male and female executives stood at about 14 per cent, the survey found.

Within the financial industry, banks were found to demonstrate the strongest gender diversity.

“Banks on average appear to be the strongest subindustry on most dimensions, with asset management lagging on representation and equality in pay, though it leads on empowerment,” Zlotnicka said.

By marketplace, North America, Europe and Asia have similar male and female representation, while Japan is lagging behind in terms of the proportion of women in top jobs at financial firms.

The top 10 global financial companies scoring highest on gender diversity relative to their regional sector peers are: Aberdeen Asset Management, AMP, AXA, Citigroup, Generali, Intact Financial, JP Morgan, Manulife, Northern Trust, and SEB.

Previous research by Morgan Stanley shows that companies with higher gender diversity tend to have better fundamentals and better risk-adjusted performance.

“We suggest incorporating our gender diversity scores with the fundamental sector analyst and quant team views in order to help investors capture potential value associated with gender diversity. The global financial stocks which exhibit high gender diversity as well as favourable fundamental and quantitative stock selection model (Global MOST) ratings are AXA, JP Morgan, Mizuho Financial, MS&AD Insurance Grp, SEB, Sumitomo Mitsui FG, and Wells Fargo,” Zlotnicka said.

In terms of C-level posts, about 50 per cent of companies have at least one female chairperson

on a key committee, the study found. Across the financial sector, asset management firms were in the lead with 71 per cent of them having at least one chairwoman on a key committee.

By salary, general insurance was found to be at the back of the pack in terms of female earners. The report found that women got the worst deal in the non-life insurance sector, where less than 20 per cent of top earners are female.

Consumer finance has the highest proportion, with 40 per cent of the highest earners being women.

Hong Kong has a long way top go to address gender diversity imbalances. Besides Hang Seng Bank and Chong Hing Bank, both of which have female CEOs, top management at other lenders are generally men.

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing and the Securities and Futures Commission have never had female chief executives of chairwomen.

More needs to be done to encourage women to break the glass ceiling.