NFU News

Where are the women in top management?

The gender issue in the financial sector has in recent weeks been a hot topic, with the International Women’s Day coming up. The Nordic financial sector is in the forefront when it comes to gender equality in comparison with the rest of the world. It is not unusual that the recruitment of women and men is equally divided in workplaces in the Nordic financial sector.

Finansliv wrote the article “Få människor kommer till toppen”. The article is based on the financial information of 40 companies and organizations and shows that the proportion of women on boards is good, and often very good. A couple of companies that could boast about good results are Handelsbanken and Nordea, where 71% respectively 63% of the seats in the management board are occupied by women board members. It is not only in the north region of the world that equality advances, the global equality increases substantially but not in the same pace.

Although diversity in the financial sector made great progress we have to remember that it is still not good enough. In the Nordic countries today, many women are represented at middle management level, but in the top management the representation of women is significantly lower. This is one of the big reasons to why the pay-gap between women and men is so high. Many stakeholders have shown that it is difficult for women to climb in the organizational hierarchy. Employers see women as a risk to hire, women still often get asked during job interviews if- or when they plan to have kids. So when high positions in a company are to be filled, men are often chosen over female candidates.

Why are men so often chosen to take place at the top? If you look at previous research it often comes down to culture. Recruiters often hires candidates who are similar to themselves. To be able to see beyond this phenomenon people needs to put on the so-called “Gender glasses”. To reach equality, behavioral change is needed through the use of gender glasses, so that companies can start reviewing their own business.

One problem that has been at the center of many discussions, and that NFU’s Ella Sjödin highlighted last year in a blogpost about gender equality in the financial sector, is the ”life puzzle”.

”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”

Paradoxically, men with kids have higher salary than men without kids according to a Swedish study from Gothenburg university.

I think that all the European countries need a better, more equal parental leave. Also companies have to break their structures and rethink when it comes to parental leave. Companies that give women a chance to plan their return to work back from parental leave, given women the best opportunity to come back and continue their careers.

Gender equality is not the norm today, but what can we do about it? I believe that we all need to challenge our own thinking patterns to modify behavior, and this also applies to companies.

Gender equality is ultimately about power and power relations. Those who have formal power also have a greater responsibility to work with gender issues. The work needs to shed a light on structures that are limiting gender-progress. Management needs to be aware of how the structures affect the culture both inside of the company, but also in the society as a whole. To create a gender conscious organization requires effort and work and the management has to send a signal and lead the way for the whole organization.

Elin Holmqvist, Trainee


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