Mercer warns women in finance will drop at the top

In its When Women Thrive report, published on October 26, human resources consultant Mercer said the already small proportion of female representation in executive-level jobs in finance was being eroded and stood to fall from 15% to 12% by 2025 if there was no change to the status quo.

“In order to boost female representation at the top, the average participating organisation across all industries is hiring female executives relative to their current representation at one-and-a-half times the rate of males,” Mercer’s report said. “Yet the financial services industry continues to hire males at a higher rate, further increasing the gap between male and female representation.”

Mercer said that while female representation on boards had increased by two thirds in the 10 years to the end of 2015, it was still at only 20%. However, this is still better than the 15% of executive-level jobs held by women.

“Hiring rates for men relative to their current representation outstrip those for women at every level except senior manager, where hiring rates are equal,” Mercer said. “And since women comprise only a quarter of senior managers, equal hiring rates mean bringing in far fewer women than men.”

The report also criticised financial services firms for promoting proportionately more men at every level of their organisations than women and failing to curb the “staggering” rates at which women left financial firms.

Once staff are ranked as above “professional” level, the exit rate for women from a firm is 15.8% versus 7.7% for men. This 15.8% is a substantially higher rate than women are being hired, Mercer said.

“This is in line with research by our sister company, Oliver Wyman, which found that female executives are 20%-30% more likely to leave their employers at mid-career in financial services than in any other industry,” the report said.

Mercer concluded that “by simply hiring, promoting and retaining women at the same rates relative to their current representation as men, financial services organisations can almost double female representation – to 28% – at the executive level over the next 10 years”.

Mercer collected responses from 583 companies across 42 countries, including data on 3.2 million employees, making it the largest study of its kind.

Finance companies who responded to the survey included some of the world’s largest asset managers, banks and insurers.

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