Gender Discrimination Widespread in Finance


Each month BlueSteps produces a number of career management articles and advice for our 60,000+ senior executive audience, honing their skills in all areas from networking and working with executive recruiters to salary negotiation. Advice always welcomed, yet one member recently made an important point, ‘despite best career management practice, in my industry gender discrimination cripples career advancement and stability.’

As witnessed by this senior executive on numerous occasions, discrimination in finance continues to place a brick wall in front of many talented workers who are not only great in their positions, but also experts in building a strong professional network and actively managing their career. And having not seen the situation improve dramatically over the last 20 years, feelings of futility are inevitable.

Continuing to describe the situation,

"The industry I work in has major problems in this regard, and invariably will hire/promote marginally qualified men rather than more-capable women at almost every level. It has been a factor in the poor performance of countless managed investment accounts, mutual funds, and hedge funds."

Words that are painfully close to the recent experience of a group of women suing citigroup for being laid off despite having a significant advantage in performance and qualifications over their male counterparts who kept their jobs. That same article outlines that AIG and Goldman Sachs are facing similar trials, not to mention the many personal stories we have all heard about the ‘boys club’ culture of finance.

So when will it change?

Gender discrimination and attempts to combat it dates as back as far as I can remember yet these cases continue to rise. Perhaps more stringent assessment of talent, performance and personal reviews needs to decide promotion or hiring, yet when suggesting this, most will agree that this is ‘already the case’. The problem is that discrimination across gender, race, religion and sexual lines seeps into every aspect of the workplace, making it very hard to monitor or regulate externally - especially when those in power are the ones reinforcing the status-quo. Thus, I believe discrimination can only be effectively tackled from within.

But has this self-monitoring failed in Finance and other industries? Unfortunately I do not have any large scale solution. My personal approach to discrimination has always been to stand up. When someone says or does something offensive, or if you feel you are being unfairly treated, call them out. If it continues, pull together your facts, document every incident, and then take action.

It is not easy and everyone knows that standing up is not popular. Like the women suing Citibank, establish a clear argument with evidence and present your findings to HR or to a lawyer if you are not heard anywhere within the organisation. It is with more people willing to stand up that slowly workplace culture will be forced to change.

Any thoughts on discrimination in the workplace please email cpielow@aesc.org – your comments can remain confidential.


This article was written by Christian Pielow from the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC).

BlueSteps is the exclusive service of the AESC that puts senior executives on the radar screen of over 6,000 executive search professionals in over 70 countries. Be visible, and be considered for up to 50,000 opportunities handled by AESC search firms every year. Find out more at www.BlueSteps.com.


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