Over the past several years, the struggle to achieve gender equality has become a critical issue for business, and the financial services industry is no exception. For example, while there has been significant progress in terms of preparing women educationally for mid-to-high level positions, men still continue to dominate in the workforce—particularly at leadership levels. Currently women hold only 4.8% of the CEO positions in the Fortune 500, despite accounting for more than 60% of university graduates in many developed countries. In Australia, for instance, women have comprised at least 60% of the university graduates since 1984, more than enough time for them to work their way through the system to have a greater presence at the leadership table!

Globally, women account for a significant portion of the market share and control more than the majority of the household discretionary spending. Women’s income continues to rise (now in the low trillions and climbing). As women’s socioeconomic status improves, women are increasingly empowered to make financial decisions and enjoy greater spending and bargaining power. Yet the gender equality statistics indicate women as consumers are considerably under-represented in corporate decision-making, at all levels. This creates a significant disparity between organisations and the customers they serve, and has serious business implications.

Gender equality is much more than a social issue; it is a key business imperative, with HR at the helm. In this four-part series on Gender Equality in the Workforce, I will talk about gender equality’s business impacts, provide some solutions that are effective at mitigating gender inequality, and share a few success stories.

Women want to do business with gender-equal companies

Research shows women are increasingly looking to do business with companies equitably staffed with women. This is especially true in the financial services insurance sector. Research also indicates many women perceive financial institutions as degrading to women, contradictory, and lacking the special advice women need. This disconnect means a large portion of the customer base could potentially take their business to companies whose gender equality approach aligns with their wants and needs. You want your company to be one of those companies.

Challenges create opportunities

While current gender equality in the workforce statistics are very disappointing, they also represent a significant opportunity for companies (including those that provide financial services) to proactively address the gender gap. There are very good reasons for doing so. Not only is gender equality “the right thing to do,” it’s also very good for the bottom line. Consider this—companies that embed gender equality within their business structure, operations, and offerings are:

  • 45% more likely to witness market share growth
  • 70% more likely to successfully capture new markets
  • Likely to achieve 53% higher returns on equity

In my next post I’ll look more deeply at the implications of gender equality for the financial services industry.
For a more information on the issues surrounding gender equality in the workforce, please see:

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