How female bankers react to gender bias today

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The vast majority of women think that gender discrimination still exists in financial services. A smaller yet still substantial percentage believes it is alive and well at their own firm. But for whatever reason, most women don’t let perceived gender discrimination affect their overall view of their own employer.

In our recent survey of roughly 1,000 US financial services professionals, nearly 88% of female respondents said they believe gender discrimination exists within financial services. Nearly half (46%) said it’s present at their own firm. Another one-third (31%) said they’ve personally been discriminated against at their current company based on their gender.

Yet, more than half (51%) of women who said gender discrimination exists at their own firm would still recommend their company to a female acquaintance. For women with a post-graduate degree – a master’s or higher – the percentage leaps up to 70%, which is actually higher than the percentage of men who’d recommend their gender-biased firm to a female friend.

Why? There’s certainly room for debate, but one former banker feels women have come to the reality of working on Wall Street and have moved on, concentrating on other merits of a firm.

“Discrimination exists everywhere, so there is little point in focusing on it,” said Heather Katsonga-Woodward, a former banker at Goldman Sachs and HSBC turned banking careers coach.

Moreover, many women who have established themselves in the industry may feel that they have eradicated any sense of bias or discrimination that may be evident early on.

“Importantly, while [gender discrimination] may exist in general, some women will feel they have proven themselves beyond reasonable doubt and it no longer impacts them specifically,” Katsonga-Woodward added. That could explain why 70% of women with post-graduate degrees would recommend a firm where they see bias. Perhaps they are further along in their career and have risen above it themselves.

After all, banking is in many ways a meritocracy. If you’ve proven yourself, you’re likely wanted. It just appears that women still face an uphill climb, at least early on in their banking career.



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