While Canadians feel that the financial services sector has come a long way in the last 20 years in how it treats female employees and clients, addressing gender equity issues still needs to be a priority for the industry. This sentiment was found in the results of a new study from Wealth Management at BMO, released to mark International Women’s Day on March 8.
The study found that 83 per cent of Canadians (including 79 per cent of women) feel that the financial services sector has become more equitable in the way it treats female employees compared to their male counterparts in the last 20 years.
Further, 85 per cent (83 per cent women) think that the industry is doing a better job of treating female clients more equitably over this same period.
However, despite this general perception that the financial services industry is making progress on gender related issues, the study found that Canadians believe more efforts are needed.
Women and Careers in Financial Services
With respect to female employees in financial services, the study found:
- Fifty-five per cent of Canadians (62 per cent women) feel that there isstill a ‘glass ceiling’ that hinders women from advancing their careersbeyond a certain point.
- Two-thirds of Canadians (two-thirds of women) said that men have more career opportunities than their female counterparts.
- Eighty-seven per cent (89 per cent women) believe that the sector should be doing more to help female employees achieve a better work/home life balance.
“While our industry has definitely become more aware of some of the challenges female employees face and continues to address them, the job is by no means done,” said Charyl Galpin, Co-Head, BMO Nesbitt Burns. “It’s incumbent on both men and women to ‘be the change’ on a daily basis. Having HR policies which make it easier for women to pursue a career in financial services is an important step, but we all have a role to play in ensuring that gender equity is the norm in all workplaces.”
Ms. Galpin noted that BMO Nesbitt Burns has a number of initiatives in place to encourage and support women in financial services. The firm is an active member of Women in Capital Markets, a non-profit organization that promotes the entry, advancement and development of women in the capital markets industry. Additionally, BMO Nesbitt Burns is a sponsor of the Women of Influence Luncheon Series, featuring high profile speakers who provide career advice within an environment for professional women to network, learn and grow.
Financial Services and Female Clients
Survey respondents were also asked questions related to how they felt female clients were treated by the financial industry:
- Sixty-four per cent of Canadians (70 per cent women) believe that male clients are treated in a preferential way over female clients by the financial services industry.
- Further, 67 per cent (74 per cent women) feel that men are taken more seriously by the sector.
- Seventy-nine per cent of Canadians (81 per cent women) believe that, when a male-female couple meets with a financial professional, the employee tends to view the male client as the primary decision maker.
When asked about the financial services industry’s treatment of women, 79 per cent of Canadians said they have a favourable perception of the sector. Financial services ranks behind the retail (88 per cent) and health services (89 per cent) industries, but ahead of the trade (42 per cent) and automotive (39 per cent) industries.
“There’s lots of room for our industry to improve and enhance the way we interact with female clients,” noted Myra Cridland, Head, BMO Harris Private Banking. “Not only is it the equitable and right thing to do, it also makes good business sense. Women currently control one-third of all wealth in North America – a number growing at a rate of eight per cent annually.”
To support International Women’s Day, BMO will be donating $2 to the Canadian Women’s Foundation for each tweet and retweet of the #IWDBMO hashtag, up to a maximum of $10,000.
The survey was conducted online by Pollara with a sample of 1,009 Canadians from February 21 to February 24, 2014.