It isn’t news that women are underrepresented in senior executive positions. This is despite the fact that, according to research by Catalyst (and similar to the findings of other research conducted), women earn more degrees than men and represent over half of the labor force. In fact, women represent only 5% of CEOs of S&P 500 companies.
Yet research also shows that women make effective leaders, with studies such as one by Credit Suisse finding that “Companies with more female executives in decision-making positions continue to generate stronger market returns and superior profits…” In other words, companies that make an active effort to have significant representation of women in senior leadership roles are well-positioned to outperform their competition.
Female executives gain traction in financial services
Financial services is no exception, although the good news is women continue to make modest gains in landing executive roles within financial services companies. According to Oliver Wyman’s Women in Financial Services 2020 paper, women are now reaching executive positions at the highest rate since they began tracking the statistic in 2003. According to the report, executive committees are now comprised of 20% women, with boards made up of 23% women. There are a significant number of outperformers as well – 26% of firms have more than 30% women at executive committee level, while 37% of firms have reached that figure for board representation.
Room for improvement
When it comes to reaching the top spot in financial services, however, women are still vastly underrepresented. According to Deloitte’s Diversifying the Path to CEO in Financial Services, current CEOs at the companies they studied are almost all male and predominantly drawn from three talent pools — lines of business, operations, and finance. Unfortunately, women are generally underrepresented in these categories. According to the report, women tend to have a much higher representation in areas not historically considered CEO or other front-line leadership pipelines, such as talent (66%) and marketing/business development (48%).
The path to gender equality at the highest ranks
Firms with targeted initiatives to increase representation of women in senior management and the C-Suite can position themselves for strong future growth. Ramping up recruiting efforts for women to join traditional CEO training grounds, developing specific training programs, and encouraging mentorship are all proven ways to promote diversity and inclusion at the top, which is good for both society and businesses.