New research from Finsia shows that companies need to make good on their stated commitment to promote gender equity.
The research findings were announced today in conjunction with the Bank of New Zealand, which is also launching a new industry body, Women in Financial Services Forum, in partnership with Finsia.
Finsia chief executive Russell Thomas said: "This is the first New Zealand snap shot on gender diversity dedicated to the finance industry. It follows on from earlier research that Finsia conducted in 2010 and shows that the New Zealand situation is broadly similar to that in Australia."
BNZ, which partnered with Finsia to undertake the New Zealand component of the research, are today announcing the creation of a new industry association, the Women in Financial Services Forum.
BNZ chief executive Andrew Thorburn says: "We operate in a dynamic marketplace where a homogenous workforce just won't cut it anymore, and frankly isn't good for business either. To stay sharp and competitive organisations like ours must strive to adapt, to attract and retain a diverse range of talented people, whatever their gender, ethnicity or background. BNZ is doing just that, helping to ensure that we look, sound and act like the communities we are serving."
The Women in Financial Services Forum will facilitate a programme of events, policy work and other initiatives that would collectively contribute to the objective of greater female representation within senior positions in the broader financial services industry.
Thomas said: "Companies like BNZ are to be commended for their leadership and action to raise the profile of our industry and their work to encourage the entry of more women into financial services."
While the majority of men (63.9%) and nearly half the women (48%) respondents said that the promotion and advancement of women into senior roles was a priority in their organisation - suggesting that the financial services industry in New Zealand understands the business case for gender diversity - other findings in the research indicate that the reality has yet to catch up with the rhetoric.
Despite the fact that the financial sector may be a leader in promoting policies to deliver gender diversity - men and women see the reality differently. Male respondents overwhelmingly agreed (63.9%) that the promotion of women into senior roles was a priority in their organisation, both in principle and practice, whereas women were more evenly divided with almost half (48.6%) agreeing and almost a third (30.1%) choosing to disagree.
"Despite the difference in perceptions, the financial services sector has put the issue on the agenda and has begun to adopt policies to address the gender divide" Russell Thomas said.
While respondents acknowledge that their organisations place a priority on the promotion and advancement of women into senior roles (63.9% of males and 48.6% of females agreed), 69.9% of women are not convinced that their organisations are transparent about their remuneration systems and parity of pay between genders.
Relatively high numbers of women (36.2%) also perceived that they were treated differently to their male colleagues, both in the workplace and in associated social or other work-related activities.
themes that emerged were that the workplace culture often disadvantaged women by demanding long and inflexible working hours and placed importance on sports (both watching and participating) and drinking that did not appeal to many women.
Russell Thomas says: "While this may seem like a trivial point, access to senior managers often takes place in informal settings and unless women are present they miss out on opportunities that their male colleagues take for granted. Furthermore, the requirement to work long hours also disqualifies men from being able to spend time with their families. "Interestingly, over one third of men (33.9%) said that the most beneficial strategy for increasing participation of women in financial services would be the implementation of flexible work options, 43.6% of women also agreed."
Close to half of female respondents (47.8%) agree or strongly agree that the NZX should adopt a similar reporting regime to that enacted by the ASX, compared to 29% of male respondents.
Repeating the survey this year with a focus on NZ is important because of recent moves by the NZX to consider a reporting regime for listed companies similar to that adopted across the Tasman by the ASX" Mr Thomas said.
What can't be denied is that women respondents overwhelmingly reported that their experience of the workforce is different to men in that they are disadvantaged in relation to promotional opportunities, treatment in meetings, training and development opportunities, pay and benefits and inclusion in social and other work-related activities.
"Work environments reflect wider societal conditions despite the adoption of workplace policies and practices to promote gender equity. This was picked up by a number of respondents who said that a more sophisticated and mature approach was called for; one that addressed the underlying regard with which women were held in general. "Both men and women are hearing the talk, but there is uncertainty among women about whether this has translated into real action."
The research reports the views of 272 New Zealand-based respondents to a survey of over 950 male and female finance industry professionals in Australasia. The vast majority of respondents (69.6%) were middle management or senior executive level. The survey was conducted between 26 March and 19 April 2012 and all survey interviews were conducted online.
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