Women making progress in Europe’s financial services sector

All sectors of Europe’s financial services industry have increased the levels of female representation on their boards over the past two years, according to a study by London-based think tank New Financial.

However, there is a continuing gap between the comparatively high number of women on boards and the much smaller number that appear at executive level. This year’s study found that women account for about 26% of board members, up from 20% in 2015.

Executive representation by women still lags at 18%, an improvement from 15% two years ago, but still a long way to go before parity to be achieved.

In the UK, nearly one in four (23%) board directors of financial services companies are women, but only one in seven (14%) executive committee members are female. This contrasts with the Nordic region, where the percentages are 34% and 25% respectively.

There are a handful of companies in the financial services sector where the number of female executives is far higher. They are even in a majority at the UK’s Pensions Regulator and France’s Société Générale, while making up 44% of all executives at the Lloyd’s of London insurance market and 43% at banking group Standard Chartered.

Banks appear to offer women the best progression to board level, with one in three board members female although they make up only 13% of executive committee members against more than 30% for both trade bodies and regulators. Female representation is lowest at private equity firms and hedge funds, where the figures are only 10% and 9% respectively.

The study notes that senior personnel in the banking industry believe that it is easier to increase the level of female representation on boards because of targeted hiring, whereas increasing the share of executive jobs can take decades as women need to rise through the ranks.

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