Gender bender: Opinions split on leveling the playing field

by Mackenzie McCarty22 Jan 2013

Gender discrimination is rife within the Australian financial services industry, according to the latest eFinancialCareers Diversity Survey, with nearly two thirds (64%) of Australia-based finance professionals claiming that gender discrimination takes place in the industry. 

However, perception of gender discrimination in the workplace varies greatly between men and women – and even between women themselves.

Over eight in ten surveyed women (84%) say that gender discrimination does exist in financial services, compared to 54% of men.  Even more concerning is that only half (54%) of women feel they could report gender discrimination in their firm without some form of reprisal.

But ANZ’s head of  broker distributions, Meg Bonighton, says her experience doesn’t fit the statistics.

“While I can’t talk on behalf of the entire industry, certainly at ANZ my experience has been quite different. Our CEO has made it very clear that the advancement of women, particularly in leadership positions, is a key focus. The bank has set a goal of having 40% representation of women in management and ensuring women have equal access and opportunity to secure senior roles and advance their careers.”

But Adrienne Rush, a financial planner at Bendigo Bank, says that while her career path has been mostly positive as well in terms of discrimination, there’s still work to be done.

“Offer mentoring by women for women, flexible work options, provide solid foundations for women wishing to learn and excel. Women can get better at supporting each other -I think men are great at promoting each other.”

Rush says career breaks should also be seen as short term absences, noting that, in the grand scheme of things, a twelve-month leave period to have a baby in amongst a 40-year career isn’t much.

However, Rush says the problem often comes from women themselves.

“Women need to change their mind-set. While waiting for my car to be serviced I overheard the female attendant say to her male counterpart ‘can I play the dumb girl card’; then she asked him a question. It is so disheartening to hear a young woman verbalise and think this way - I was horrified. We put ourselves down.”

Rush says men and women need to work together in order to support women who are facing challenges but want to succeed.

“It would be great to have an equal number of men and women [in the finance industry]. In saying this, organisations also need to support the men who wish to work flexible jobs so they can also focus on family if that’s what they choose.”


  • by Xavier 22/01/2013 9:52:34 AM

    It seems to me that Women earn the same rate of commission as Men do as a broker.. Should that not be called 'equality' and used as an example in a positive light rather than always bringing out the same negative tune?

  • by oldBroker 22/01/2013 3:20:16 PM

    Good point Xavier and furthermore, there are many homeowners who prefer to deal with female brokers as they are viewed to be more empathetic and caring than men.

  • by mikeh 23/01/2013 11:35:41 AM

    My personal view after twenty years in the industry is that a female broker runs rings around a bloke. The driving force in residential o/o and investment finance is the wife/partner; the husband goes along with whatever she is happy with; females have a natural affinity and understanding for one another, which puts caring, understanding Mary streets ahead of shifty Tom with the slick hair. In commercial deals directors are more interested in the deal than the presenter, although professionally presented Mary still has an advantage over Tom.