Women blame bias, men blame parenting

When an industry’s dominated by men, the all too few women represented are even more likely to come up against bias in recruitment and career progression.

But their male counterparts may see the problem differently, preferring to blame parenting for the lack of diversity.

That certainly appears to be the case in the investment management industry, which is 76% male according to new research.

The Mercer-led research on the investment management industry, launched at the Financial Services Summit in Sydney today, finds the sector is seriously lacking in diversity, and that women are encountering issues at multiple levels.

Mercer found women investment managers are 30% less likely to be promoted in the industry, and 50% more likely than men to leave the industry altogether.

While women say the lack of diversity – and possibly why they’re leaving – comes down to bias in recruiting, promoting and a lack of flexibility, men were more likely to blame parental responsibilities for the lack of diversity.

Motherhood is no doubt a factor in why some women leave — as it is in many industries — but it’s how an industry responds to such challenges, and supports new mothers that can really make the difference.

Mercer’s Diversity and Inclusion Practice Leader Yolanda Beattie believes there’s work being done to tackle the issue, and that leaders are committed to doing more to break down some of the systemic cultural and structural barriers preventing greater diversity in the industry.

But she adds that supporting women through critical child bearing years is a key priority, noting that employers need to intentionally sponsor women through this period, to deter them from leaving in high numbers.

Recruitment processes, she adds, are also reinforcing homogeneity in an industry where half those employed are private-school educated and the majority are from Anglo-Celtic backgrounds. “A tendency to hire who you know rather than searching widely for diverse talent is part of the problem. This impacts male and female non-Anglo Celtic aspiring investment managers, and women,” she said.

So what else can be done? Some recommendations from those involved in the report include promoting the career-value of investment management to a broader talent pool, and overhauling recruitment practices to attract a wider range of technical skills and diversity.

They also recommend industry-wide sponsorship programs for supporting underrepresented groups, as well as developing, reporting and tracking progress on company specific diversity and inclusion metrics.

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