Financial services firms 'hostile towards women'

2004

The financial services industry has been accused of being hostile towards women by failing to deliver family-friendly workplaces.

A nationwide survey of 2,500 finance professionals conducted by recruitment company Robert Half and Accountancy Age magazine found that a third of employees did not believe their workplace was family friendly

More than a third also believed the finance profession discriminates against working mothers, with almost half (47 per cent) saying that their firm had no formal policy on flexible working.

Four out of ten women said that they supported the Government's proposed increase in paid maternity leave to a year. But two-thirds of women who opposed the extension said that they did so because any extension would only encourage further discrimination against them.

Long hours are a major cause of pressure on family life, with four out of ten of those surveyed saying that they work more than 46 hours a week and more than a quarter saying they felt guilty if they did not put in extra hours.

More than a third (37 per cent) of fathers with children under 18 work more than 46 hours a week, the survey found, while one in ten of those working more than 55 hours complained that they had been accused of not working hard enough.

Finance also has the biggest pay gap of any employment sector. Female finance professionals earn an average of 22 per cent less than men, with even senior company partners earning 25 per cent less than their male colleagues and female financial directors being paid 12 per cent less.

But it is not only women who are suffering from entrenched attitudes. Half of those under 25 and half aged between 55 and 65 felt they were discriminated against because of their age.

With almost one in three (28 per cent) of all those surveyed feeling they have been victims of age discrimination, the finance sector looks as if it has a big task ahead if it is to avoid a flood of litigation when new age discrimination legislation is introduced in 2006.

The Robert Half survey is only the latest to document the poor people management record of the financial services sector. Earlier this year, research by talent management consultancy TalentMax found that six out of ten HR directors in financial services felt that their organisations failed to develop their talent. Only one in five claimed to be very successful at assimilating new talent and one in ten very successful at engaging their talent.

Commenting on the research, Phil Sheridan, regional manager of Robert Half Finance & Accounting, said: "Making money to ensure a decent standard of living is all very well, but not advisable if it leads to the detriment of family life.

"The long working hours and discrimination against working parents as highlighted by the survey shows that recent high-profile cases in the finance sector are not isolated incidents. Both employers and employees have a part to play to ensure the finance industry really achieves a healthy work-life balance, rather than just paying it lip-service."