The alpha-male business culture that is still present throughout a number of industries might be long passed its sell-by date, but how can business leaders of today within these sectors ensure their companies embrace an inclusive approach to employment? Here entrepreneur Samuel Leach outlines the tactics he believes can be used to correct the exclusionist alpha-male culture in finance.
The financial industry is well known for its alpha-male culture. For years it has been glamourised and reinforced through pop-culture films like The Wolf of Wall Street, but this needs to end if gender equality, with all its associated benefits, is to be achieved.
Addressing the gender imbalance
One of the biggest obstacles for increasing the number of women in financial careers is the low number of applicants. Ironically, a significant contributor to this is the fact that the number of women in the industry is low. Regardless of your gender, entering a workplace dominated by a different sex can be intimidating. To prevent the gender imbalance in the financial industry from putting off female applicants, it’s vital that companies make a concerted effort to highlight the existing presence of women in their business, at both a senior and junior level.
Furthermore, by having female employees involved in the hiring process, businesses are more likely to avoid male-centric terminology that can discourage female applicants. As well as reduce the likelihood of unconscious bias, that could see a male applicant hired over an equally capable female, due to the stereotype of the perfect employee being male based on the existing staff set.
A new approach to childcare
It’s undeniable that having children affects women’s work life significantly more than their male counterparts. Research from the Resolution Foundation found that the gender pay gap worsens for women after they have children, not least because many come back to lower positions than they left. It’s vital that companies institute more effective training and returners schemes for women once they finish their maternity leave, to prevent childbirth holding back their progress. Similarly, more needs to be done to prevent women bringing up their children being an obstacle to career success.
Women are the primary care givers in 64 per cent of families, according to research by Direct Line Insurance. As such, they are the demographic most likely to have to work flexibly to meet their childcare requirements. Unfortunately for them, a report released by the Women in Finance Treasury Committee earlier this year found that remote working is linked to stunted career growth and looked down on as a female way of working. To eradicate the damaging and sexist connotations around flexible working, male business leaders must make a concerted effort to normalise flexible working by: taking advantage of the benefit, demonstrating their ability to generate the same quality of work remotely, and encouraging others to do the same.
Tackling pay and seniority
It’s well-known that the financial sphere has one of the worst pay gaps of all industries - the mean pay difference stands at 22 per cent, making it over twice as bad as the overall average (10 per cent), while the gap for individuals taking home over £1 million per year is an astounding 91 per cent.
The Women in Finance committee has also highlighted issues with men arguing more forcefully for bonuses than their female counterparts and resultantly being given disproportionately greater rewards, leaving female workers feeling under-valued. To ensure women remain in the financial industry, businesses must review their pay and rewards systems and put more objective measures in place for identifying and acknowledging strong performance.
Pay isn’t the only sticking point for women in financial careers. According to Credit Suisse, only 15 per cent of all board members, and just six per cent of executives are female. The absence of women in decision-making positions results in the retention and creation of male-centric policies that see their interests, unintentionally or otherwise, promoted over women’s, which in turn deters women taking up or remaining in financial careers. This must change for the alpha-male culture to be overturned and for equality in numbers and recognition to be achieved.
The obvious benefits of inclusion
Achieving greater equality will not only benefit the women entering the industry, or rising through the ranks, but also each company and society as a whole. A recent Credit Suisse report found that businesses where 15 per cent of senior management positions were held by women were 50 per cent more profitable than those where women held fewer than 10 per cent of senior roles. A greater number of women will also lead to a more balanced company culture, correcting current misconceptions about what working for a financial firm is and should be like.
We can begin to correct the exclusionist alpha-male culture in finance today if the men who dominate the industry are willing to work with their female colleagues to institute the necessary change. We must focus on encouraging women into junior positions, removing childbirth and childcare obstacles, as well as ensuring women have equal pay and progression opportunities to their male counterparts. By doing so we will achieve a more balanced, profitable and healthy environment in the industry.