Despite Progress, Women Are Still Under-Represented in Management-Level Finance Jobs

Women in the financial services sector have by definition mastered working with numbers, but a survey of the latest statistics on the sector shows that there is one number women in financial services just can’t seem to conquer: 32%. Whichever category of finance management we look at, women never make up more than 32% of the sample, and often far less. Gender equality will still require more efforts, from businesses and individuals.


Take a look at some of the data, compiled by Catalyst.

  • Women are 17.6% of executive officers in Fortune 500 finance and insurance companies.
  • Women are 17.9% of board directors in Fortune 500 finance and insurance companies.
  • Women are 11.4% of the CFOs in Fortune 500 companies.
  • Women are 18.3% of executive or senior-level officials and managers in companies in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s “securities, commodity contracts and other financial investments and related activities” category.
  • Women are 15.6% of the executive/senior-level officials and managers at investment banks and securities dealers.
  • Women are 29% of the executive/senior-level officials and managers at commercial banks.
  • Women are 31.3% of the executive/senior-level officials at companies in the accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping and payroll services.

In Canada, the news is similar:

  • Women are 23.1% of senior officers in Financial Post 500 finance and insurance companies.
  • Women are 22.3% of board directors in Financial Post 500 finance and insurance companies.

The highest participation rate at the senior level in any of these sectors is just 31.3% for women.

“It has been more than two decades since I entered the workforce, and so much is still the same,” writes Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in her acclaimed book, Lean In, which is about women and careers.

“A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes,” she wrote. Sandberg is leading an effort to make women and men aware of the problem and what can be done about it.

Why can’t women break the 32% barrier?

A debate is raging among women regarding whether their personal choices or outdated social standards are to blame. Some say that a big part of the problem is the caregiver bias that exists in the American workplace. Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, argues most American workplace schedules and cultures still revolve around expectations that formed in the 1950s, when men were the majority of the workforce and had few caregiving responsibilities.

“Working mothers are judged unfairly not only as workers but also as mothers,” she writes. “Studies have found that employed mothers are seen as more selfish and less dedicated to their children than at-home mothers, especially if they are thought to be working because they want to, rather than being forced to in order to make ends meet.”

Despite the obstacles, both perceived and real, that women face in general and in finance in particular, it’s clear that some progress has been made. Slowly, women are indeed taking more of the big roles in finance.

For example, the highest paid public company CFO in 2013 in the United States, according to the Wall Street Journal, was a woman—Safra Catz of Oracle. Catz is the first female executive to take the top slot since the Journal started tracking CFO pay four years ago, the paper said. Pamela Craig, the CFO of Accenture, also made the top 10.

Of course, none of their bosses, the top 10 highest-paid public company CEOs, were female. Carol Mayrowitz, CEO of retail giant TJX Companies, did come in at number 27, but she was just one of 14 women on the list of 301 CEOs. Together they formed—you guessed it—less than 32% of the list.