Why financial services must convince women it's changed for the better

The introduction of the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 brings a number of issues to a head - but is the financial services industry ready for a make-over?

Achieving fairer representation of women in the male-dominated financial services industry is a challenge being brought into sharp focus by the new federal Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012, according to job site eFinancialCareers, but it may not be enough.

Although the Act’s minimum standards will not apply until the 2013-14 reporting period, gender equality will be on the radar for broking firms with 100 employees or more – and that’s a good thing, says eFinancialCareers managing director Asia Pacific, George McFerran, because the industry needs both a cultural and a perceptual change.

Employers will have to report against a set of gender equality indicators, focusing on outcomes with CEO’s required to sign off on reports.

Although the new industry body responsible for administering the Act, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, describes itself as ‘a light-touch’ regulator, there are ramifications for firms that don't comply, including the likelihood of being publically named and shamed in Parliament.

Inequality in financial services is significant, he says. A recent survey of Australian finance professionals by eFinancialCareers found that gender discrimination was rife in the industry, with more than 84% of women, including brokers, believing gender discrimination does occur. 

When it comes to pay, perceptions amongst women are even worse, with the survey finding only 12% of women believe remuneration is equal for men and women in senior roles.

“But relying on compliance overlooks the need to win hearts and minds,” says McFerran.“If the financial services industry is going to attract people from the widest talent pool, it must convince a new generation of women it has changed for the better.”

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