January 2016 • Topic: Driving diversity • by Yasmine Chinwala
When it comes to gender diversity, we all know that the capital markets industry is starting from a low base. But the latest report by New Financial on female representation on boards and executive committees at 220 organisations across 11 sectors in European capital markets shows that the numbers are beginning to move in the right direction.
Download the full report here
The debate around gender diversity in business and finance is highly emotive, and the slow pace of change can sometimes make for depressing reading. But the good news, according to the latest research from New Financial, is that while the overall levels of diversity are still low, the numbers are heading in the right direction across the industry – and making real progress may not take as long as many might have feared.
The percentage of women on boards has increased three percentage points to 23% compared to a year ago, and female representation on executive committees has risen by one percentage point to 16% across the industry. Nearly half (47%) of the companies in our sample have increased female representation on their boards since our first report in 2014, and a third (34%) of excos have also improved.
But these averages mask a wide range in gender diversity across different sectors in our sample – for example, average female representation on excos is lowest at 7% for private equity, rising to 30% for trade bodies.
There is still a big difference in levels of female representation between boards – which have been the focus of most initiatives to improve diversity so far – and executive committees. For example, at banks, average female representation on boards of 32% is nearly triple the levels on excos of just 12%.
When it comes to the types of roles women hold on boards and executive committees, our research quantifies the relative lack of women in frontline business roles. On boards, the proportion of female non-executive directors (24%) is nearly twice that of executive directors (13%).
Where women sit on executive committees, they tend to be in support roles rather than in the C-suite or revenue generating functions. Nearly two thirds of heads of communications (64%) and more than half of heads of HR (58%) on excos were women, but only 12% of heads of a division or region are female, and just 11% of the C-suite, according to our analysis. One way to swiftly boost the number of women on excos and send a very powerful signal of intent could be to elevate female leaders in essential functions to the executive committee.
Whether the capital markets industry likes it or not, political momentum is moving towards greater disclosure of diversity data and using those numbers to set targets. But such targets may not be as frightening as they first appear. If the industry were to set a voluntary target of 33% female representation on boards, it would take roughly six years to achieve, based (simplistically) on the rate of change over the past year. A target of 25% women on executive committees could take just over 10 years to reach.
If that sounds like a long time, all the more reason for the industry to continue and even accelerate its existing initiatives to achieve real change.
New Financial believes that diversity in its broadest sense is not only an essential part of running a sustainable business but a fundamental part of addressing cultural change in capital markets.
As part of our aim to move the diversity debate forward, we host a series of seminars and workshops on different aspects of diversity, and we publish surveys and research. If you have any feedback on this report or are interested in taking part in our events programme, please contact Yasmine Chinwala on firstname.lastname@example.org