The banking and finance industry that I’ve been involved in for some 30 years was cited as having Australia’s worst gender pay gap in July.
Not one of the worst, but the wooden spoon for pay disparity favouring men over women.
The federal government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) report, ‘Gender and Negotiation in the Workplace’ found that Financial and Insurance Services had the largest gender pay gap of 19 industries it examined.
To be clear, it found that all industries had a gender pay gap, but in financial services, the difference between male and female remuneration exceeded all others, at a whopping 32%.
While I was not surprised at the finding regarding the industry as a whole, impugning all sectors and employers equally would be a mistake.
Gender pay disparity is not something that I’ve recently encountered among the firms and the people I engage with in the industry, rather, leading female executives are in high demand and are remunerated and nurtured accordingly.
I’m not ignorant to the fact that there are instances where men and women are not being remunerated on a level playing field, this is a very large industry. However, my own experience suggests that among the top echelons of the banking industry and the particular sectors where we, at Kelly Executive, perform much of our work, bad cases of gender pay gap are not typical, or are being corrected.
It’s certainly not rampant amongst the senior roles my team and I work. Indeed, in the best businesses, women executives are well paid, highly sought, and supported and encouraged through a range of leadership activities and programs more than ever before.
While I have heard of a number of organisations that experience pay disparity, they are openly working to address the issue.
A large majority of financial services organisations have target quotas for senior female executives. Love them or hate them, quotas are making a difference and have increased demand and opportunities for top female talent.
I see many high-performing women executives who are on a par with or ahead of their male counterparts in terms of salary and conditions. They are frequently reluctant to move jobs from an organisation where they have built up good will and may be on a fast-track female leadership program, with their career progression precisely mapped out.
These employers understand the real value of their female staff and go to extra lengths to ensure they are well looked after. And, of course this is just common sense. What employer would seek to disadvantage a key segment of their human capital by deliberately under-paying or discriminating?
For employers, it’s important that they remain in step with these shifts and both develop and promote programs that will attract and retain the best female executives, if they hope to extract talent from their competitors in a market where the hurdle is being set higher.
High expectations come with these fast-track programs - the best performing executives will be in the spotlight. And when they get the formula right, organisations will be rewarded with loyalty, longevity and success.
From what I see on a regular basis, this will be a time of unfolding opportunity for female executives and their employers. Reform continues at the most senior levels of the largest institutions and will percolate down to many others in the banking and finance sector.
I can’t predict the future but I expect that there will be a big improvement recorded in female pay and conditions if the WGEA report is repeated in a few years.
Things are moving fast, and firms will seize opportunities to reshape or risk losing their best and brightest. For the next generation of female executives, the gender pay gap should become a memory.
Author: Trevor Bradley is the Direct of Kelly Executive.