NFU Blog

Gender equality as a factor for growth

Lately I have come across several articles published in Nordic, European and international papers about gender equality in the financial sectors.

In many ways, gender equality is improving in the Nordic financial sectors, especially in comparison with other sectors. The finance sectors have a fairly balanced workforce where women make up about half of the employees. But when it comes to the issues of remuneration and women in leading positions it is clear that a lot still needs to be done. Female leaders are well represented on lower levels in the companies but the higher you get in the hierarchy, the less women in management you find. In Sweden, 33 % of the company boards consist of women and 25 % of the management are women. The numbers are similar in Denmark where women represent about 30 % of the management in financial companies.

So where do all the women go from being well-represented on lower and medium level management to top management? I have a hard time believing that women would simply be less ambitious than men, and the evidence is on my side here. What is interesting in this aspect is some recent reports regarding female hedge fund managers in the finance sectors and how they outperform their male counterparts. The female run hedge funds have shown to be more risk-averse and more likely to stay with their investment choices even in times of turbulence.

So that women wouldn’t have the competence or be able to add other perspectives to a management is simply not true. I do believe that there are many different explanatory factors to why there are so few women in management, one of them being that finance is a traditionally male dominated sector and a general tradition of male dominance on higher positions.

Another extremely important factor is the so called ‘life puzzle’ where women still take a greater responsibility for the family and thereby have difficulties in balancing the career and family life. Women take out more parental leave and it can be difficult to return to work and uphold the same career goals and even the same wage development. It is therefore crucial that the working conditions are suitable for both women and men.

We know by now that companies with a diverse management become more profitable and deliver better results than those managements with just men. With a diverse management you can also relate to a larger spectrum of clients and gain a broader understanding of your surroundings. That is one of many more reasons why companies and individuals should make further efforts to promote women to leading positions.

Ella Sjödin, Head of EU Affairs

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