Women in finance

by 08 Jul 2008

THE PROPORTION of females working in the finance industry has fallen 3 per cent to 45 per cent since 1997, with female participation in the sector dropping off particularly in the older age groups.

Overall, Australia’s financial services sector is not attracting enough skilled workers into the industry and is often providing only modest incentives to retain talented employees, according to research released by Finsia, the Financial Services Institute of Australasia.

The research – which examines the patterns of the Australian workforce over more than a decade between 1997 and 2007 (and the significant trends influencing this period) – provides preliminary insight into the key issues facing Australia’s financial services industry in attracting and retaining skilled employees, particularly women.

The research revealed that the finance sector has done little to break down historic barriers facing women in the sector, with women employed at disproportionately lower levels to men in terms of both roles and income levels.

“Australia’s open economy, enviable regulatory environment and impressive funds management industry has ensured its strong position in global financial markets,” said Dr Martin Fahy, CEO of Finsia. “However, maintaining that competitive advantage will increasingly depend on a skilled pool of professionals to drive the industry forward.”

Fahy said the findings indicate that Australia’s finance sector risks losing ground to regional competitors if productivity and growth levels fail to increase.

“In the face of an ageing population and recognised talent shortage, now more than ever we must encourage greater workforce participation rates, especially among women and professional retirees,” he said.

Some of the key findings of the study included:

• The proportion of men working in the finance sector who hold degrees (54 per cent) is much higher than the overall proportion of men in the workforce with a degree (28 per cent).

• Men in the finance sector are much more likely to hold managerial positions than women. Women employed part time in the finance sector are also twice as likely to be in clerical positions as men (65 per cent for women, 32 per cent for men).

• The average personal income for men employed full time in the finance industry is considerably higher than for women employed full time across all age groups, with the difference in the income level more acute in the 45 to 59 age group.

• In line with the overall ageing of the population, the proportion of the finance sector aged under 30 has declined over the last 10 years (down 6 per cent to 25 per cent), while those aged 60 and over has grown considerably (up 3 per cent to 7 per cent).

“If Australia is to be considered a leading financial services centre in the Asia-Pacific region, a co-ordinated approach from government and industry is required to lift the level of skilled employment in the financial services industry by at least 40 per cent to meet escalating competition from established centres such as Hong Kong and Singapore and emerging centres such as Dubai and Shanghai,” said Fahy.