Financial services sector needs more women in senior roles, industry group warns

Call follows release of gender pay reports showing mean salary gap of 21.1% across four main banks

Financial services firms need to redouble their efforts to increase representation of women at senior levels in 2023 after the release of stark gender pay reports last month showing notable discrepancies in pay and bonuses between men and women employees, a top industry group has warned.

A raft of Irish companies have issued gender pay gap reports in recent weeks to meet an end-of-year deadline under new reporting requirements falling on Irish employers with more than 250 employees.

Financial Services Ireland, the Ibec group representing the sector in Ireland, said that significant progress had been made by financial services companies in recent times around issues of representation and pay.

However, the latest figures indicate that women are still unrepresented at senior levels across the sector.


“We know that financial organisations are committed to achieving diversity and gender-balance targets, but more needs to be done. Fundamentally it makes good business sense: fostering and harnessing the talent of women will ensure firms have access to a strong pipeline of talent,” said Financial Services Ireland group director Patricia Callan in a statement.

Revenue-generating positions

Analysis by the Central Bank of Ireland has also indicated a relative dearth of women in senior financial services roles compared with men. Some 84 per cent of top revenue-generating positions, such as chief executive or head of a business division, were held by men at the end of 2021, the Central Bank said.

Women are also under-represented among applicants for senior jobs, Financial Services Ireland highlighted. Pointing to the Central Bank’s analysis, the group said that just 31 per cent of applicants for pre-approved controlled functions roles – such as head of compliance, chief risk officer or head of finance among others – were women while only 28 per cent of applicants for board roles in 2021 were women.

Meanwhile, the average hourly pay differential currently amounts to 21.1 per cent across Bank of Ireland, AIB, Permanent TSB (PTSB) and Ulster Bank, the Financial Services Union (FSU) said last month. The gap at PTSB amounted to 17.5 per cent, rising to 18.4 per cent at AIB, 20.5 per cent at Bank of Ireland and 28 per cent at Ulster Bank, which is exiting the market.

Diversity of thought

“Having a diverse workforce, which reflects the society in which financial services companies operate, will help those companies to succeed. Greater diversity of thought, experience and leadership styles in decision-making processes will contribute to the economic benefit of the business, and the wider community as a whole.”

The Ibec group said that, through its IFS Skillnet initiative, it runs a number of programmes that can help firms increase the representation of women, including its Advancing Women course and its Women in Leadership Take the Lead programme.

“Both of these programmes have been highly successful and the feedback we have received both from women who have participated and from member companies has been extremely positive,” said Ms Callan.

Responding to the gender pay gap reports from the main retail banks, the FSU said last month that the banks should engage “constructively” with workers’ representatives on issues of pay and representation.

“The gender pay gap can best be resolved through a willingness of employers to engage with unions and agree action plans that put this issue as a core objective of their business plan,” said FSU general secretary John O’Connell. “This is not currently the position, and I would call on each bank to engage constructively with the FSU on agreeing their individual action plans that can be implemented across all areas of the bank.”

Ian Curran

Ian Curran

Ian Curran is a Business reporter with The Irish Times