Money Editor for NZ Herald

Finance sector blokey, sporty say women

BNZ financial controller Nikki Fowler says it is important for employers to create opportunities for women coming back from parental leave. Photo / Steven McNicholl
BNZ financial controller Nikki Fowler says it is important for employers to create opportunities for women coming back from parental leave. Photo / Steven McNicholl

Women who work in the New Zealand financial services sector still see it as a "blokey" male-dominated industry where much of the networking is based around either watching or participating in sport, according to research by the industry.

The survey carried out by Financial Service Institute of Australasia (Finsia) in conjunction with the Bank of New Zealand questioned 272 men and women in New Zealand as part of an Australasia-wide project.

It found major differences in opinion between the sexes when it came to gender perceptions of equality in management, promotions, and pay.

The survey revealed that 48 per cent of women did not believe females were well-represented in senior management roles, versus just 29 per cent of men.

While 63.9 per cent of male respondents overwhelmingly agreed that the promotion of women into senior roles was a priority in their organisation, women were more evenly divided, with 48.6 per cent agreeing and 30 per cent disagreeing.

When it came to remuneration, nearly 70 per cent of women did not believe there was transparency about pay between the genders versus 32 per cent of men.

The research is being used to launch a body called Women in Financial Services Forum. It is backed by the BNZ in partnership with Finsia and aims to get support from around the financial services industry which consists of more than 30,000 workers.

The survey also found that more women believed less attention was given to the advancement of women's careers because at some point they might leave the workforce and have children.

While 58 per cent of females strongly agreed that some women avoided promotion because of concerns about balancing workplace demands and caring responsibilities, the largest group of men, 35.5 per cent, were neutral on it.

The largest group of women, 39 per cent, also believed that females without caring responsibilities were also under-used in senior ranks, compared with 42 per cent of men who did not agree with the statement.

There were also differences of opinion over the ways in which female participation in the sector could be increased. Both men and women rated flexible work options as important, but women saw it as the most beneficial way to help increase participation, while men rated mentoring and professional development as priorities.

Tapping in to women's potential

BNZ financial controller Nikki Fowler says she would never have taken the step into management had she not been shoulder-tapped.

The mum of two has been with the bank for 15 years.

She trained as a chartered accountant and when promoted she was the youngest senior female leader at the bank at just under 30.

"I probably wouldn't have had the confidence to put my hand up if I hadn't of been shoulder-tapped," she said.

"I hadn't been in the banking environment very long."

She believed many women looked at roles and thought "well I can do 75 per cent of it" but not all of the job where as men had a "she'll be right attitude".

Fowler said as a senior manager it was important for her to encourage women to think about opportunities for themselves and support them.

She said it was particularly important for employers to create opportunities for women coming back from parental leave.

"It's really important to try to maintain a foothold in the industry," she said.

Fowler said she hoped the Women in Financial Services Forum, which the BNZ helped launch yesterday following a report on gender issues in the sector, would increase awareness and networking opportunities.

The forum will be set up in the next few months and aims to encourage more women into the financial services sector, promotion of women into senior roles and will try to influence policy both within corporates and the Government.

- NZ Herald

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