There have long been concerns about the lack of women at senior levels in Financial Services. Many have suggested that the excessive risk taking and mistreatment of customers in the pre-2007 boom were caused by the overwhelming masculinity of the industry; some have asked whether the crisis might have been avoided if Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters.
That is not the whole story, of course. The crisis had many causes. And a lack of diversity has many consequences. But regardless, it remains clear that the sector is losing out in the “war for talent”.
We have been unconvinced by the depth of some of the discourse on this topic. Individual anecdote and stereotyping predominates, and facts are too seldom brought to bear. At Oliver Wyman, we pride ourselves on applying our in-depth industry expertise to help our clients tackle and address their most challenging and difficult problems. But on this topic, we felt we had no credibility as the majority of Oliver Wyman’s partners are men too. We were also losing the “war for talent”.
So we have spent five years scrutinizing Oliver Wyman’s own lack of gender diversity, and have launched ongoing initiatives to address it – some have been successful, some less so. Along the way we have been helped by our clients and friends across the industry. This report represents our attempt to return the favor.
We have tried to move beyond individual experience and anecdote to explore the questions: What stops women getting to the top in financial firms? And how can the industry improve?
To assemble a fact base for this report we have analyzed the gender mix of senior staff at over 150 firms internationally and surveyed over 1,000 current and potential financial services employees from five countries. And, by far the most interesting part of our research, we interviewed over 60 senior women (and a few men!) from across the sector.
We were consistently inspired by the calibre, character and charisma of the women that we met. They are a diverse group, defying generalizations or stereotypes, and every one of them is passionate about encouraging and supporting more women to progress within their industry. We would like to thank all our interviewees for their time, thoughts and candor.
We have been surprised by some of the results, and our conviction that financial firms, and we, must do more to support women has only increased. We hope you will be equally interested and inspired by what we now plan to make an ongoing study.