Financial services retains unequal pay gap

Bernard Kellerman Work & career

Finsia's fifth biannual gender divide survey suggests pay inequality is levelling out but the industry remains a laggard in areas such as equal pay and advancement of women.

The financial services professional body surveyed more than 700 industry employees and found differences in perceptions of serious inequality issues.

"More than 25 per cent of males believe the extent of the pay gap is grossly exaggerated. Yet only 6 per cent of women believe this is the case," said Chris Whitehead, Finsia's chief executive officer.

"There is clearly a gender divide in the perception of the pay gap versus reality."

Data from the Australian Government's Workplace Gender Equality Agency shows that while more than half of those employed in 166,000-strong financial services sector are women, they are paid almost a third less than their male counterparts.

Financial and insurance services remain the industry with the largest gender pay gap: 30.3 per cent for total remuneration, and 23.1 per cent for base salary. The average gender pay gap for all industries in 2017-18 is 21.3 per cent (total remuneration) and 16.2 per cent (base salary).

Finsia Diversity Advisory Council Chair Linda Maniaci said the survey highlighted the need for more concerted action.

"It is clearly worrying that financial services lags so far behind everyone else when it comes to inequality over pay," she said.

Among the many negatives highlighted by the report:

Few respondents see the promotion and advancement of women into senior roles as a priority in their organisation. And among those who ventured to respond to questions on setting targets, 90 per cent of respondents did not support targets or quotas.

The much hyped focus on mentoring and networking outlined in earlier years to increase the numbers of women in senior executive roles and on boards has not worked. Rather, it entrenches the view that women need to be ‘fixed’.

In contrast, one area where male and female respondents were more closely aligned was in the need to share caring responsibilities. The response to the question about being forced to trade promotion for flexibility to take time off hasn't changed much in seven years, with almost four out of every five (79 per cent) of female respondents agreeing that there is a promotion-flexibility trade-off in their workplace.

The higher up the ladder, the more confident women are in not having to compromise.