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If there was a chart that ranked gender imbalance in terms of sector, finance would certainly be up there high on the list. Plagued with negative headlines around pay disparity, lack of representation in executive roles and male domination in the industry generally – it’s perhaps not the best career advert for women considering a career in financial services.

If we look at salaries alone, the latest data released by UK banks shows that the average pay gap ranges between 31% and 61%. A massive disproportion, suggesting more of a gulf than a gap. The different institutions cite several key reasons for the disparity, such as structural issues across the workforce, as fewer women are in leadership positions, which inevitably come with bigger salaries.

Despite the undesirable statistics, we are not here to do a hatchet job on this highly successful sector. We have seen first-hand that there is a deep determination in our great financial institutions to tackle this challenge head on. Many of the UK’s national banks are working tirelessly behind the scenes to fight for gender equality. The battle for women in finance is underway and now is the time to shatter the glass ceiling once and for all.

Females and the world of finance is a pivotal topic here in our events HQ. As we prepare for the UK’s first Women in Business Event (WIB Expo) in the Autumn, the challenges and opportunities presented by the sector have become a critical theme. Not only in terms of the impact on women embarking on a career in the industry, but also the important role finance plays for women succeeding in start-ups.

From Mumpreneurs to mid-life career changers, one of the biggest frustrations for women starting their own business is funding. In a recent study by the Federation of Small Businesses, a quarter of female small business owners said the ability to access traditional funding channels was a key challenge, with many relying on alternative sources – crowdfunding, personal cash and credit – for growth. There has also been widespread research showing that women entrepreneurs, on average, have lower loan approval rates than men and can even be charged higher interest rates.

It is an urgent call to action for our nation’s banks and many have already taken heed. For example, HSBC, Natwest and Santander have all launched different schemes to help women in business. Offering tangible support to existing and potential female business owners with everything from specialist financial advice, start-up funding and help with everyday business needs. There are also several brilliant resources and support networks available online providing a range of expertise for women working in or entering the sector – www.womeninfinance.co.ukwww.wibf.org.uk and wearethecity.com to name but a few.

According to research by FreeAgent and OnePoll, one in eight working women in the UK wants to start their own business. There is no shortage of appetite or passion, it is the practical and financial support that is needed to help transform sound ideas into successful businesses. This is one of the key aims of WIB Expo. We will be showcasing what the industry has to offer women in the world of finance and also provide the tools, ideas and inspiration to those wanting to start their own business.

We are talking to several leading financial institutions in the run up to the event. It is highly encouraging to see their unwavering commitment to addressing all aspects of gender imbalance and we already have a number signed up to support WIB Expo. What’s clear is that the finance industry is resolute in fixing matters for women, from securing more females in senior positions to solving issues around funding.

So, while we can’t argue with the stark reality of recent statistics, perhaps if there was a chart that ranked sectors in terms of commitment to change – finance would certainly be up there high on the list.

Christie Day
Event Director
Women in Business Expo

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