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This is a woman’s world…

by Elsie Rutterford August 30, 2011

I read an interesting article on the FT.com earlier this week regarding women in business and, more specifically, banking. FT journalist Liz Bolshaw discussed encouraging figures on the banks’ boardrooms and increasing diversity in female to male ratio – “The 31 largest banks in the world, as defined by the 2010 Fortune Global 200 list, all have at least one woman on the board except for Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group of Japan”, with big names such as Deutsche, BNP Paribas and China Construction Bank leading the way (a high of 35.3% female board members). What a great point to be at for women in finance and certainly a far cry from the male-dominated banks of 30 years ago, with the likes of Mary Callahan Erdoes, chief executive of JPMorgan Asset Management and Irene Dorner, HSBC’s US chief executive, inspiring women who want to make a name in banking across the world.

But despite these incredible figures, and the rise in female board members and senior management across both the financial and general business worlds, a shortfall still seems to be apparent in female interest in entry level positions. For a number of our clients, female diversity in their graduate recruitment is a hot topic and a challenge they come up against at the beginning of every scheme year - not more so than in finance. Male to female ratios are typically low right from initial application stage which has a knock on effect when it comes to making offers – with a lack of female interest at the very beginning, the challenge is hard to tackle.

So with inspirational women heading up some of our biggest banks, why is there still a lack of females wanting to get involved? Is the banking industry still (wrongly) perceived as a man’s world, a testosterone-fuelled environment with an attitude towards women enough to rival the characters of Mad Men? Perhaps. Or is there just a general lack of interest, or even education, into what the finance industry is all about? Either way, it’s a challenge that will continue to stay prominent in financial services graduate recruitment. As efinancialnews.com journalist Angela Henshall says in an article about recruitment – “Retaining female staff remains the elusive holy grail”. [Alison] Kanabe [EMEA Morgan Stanley] said “Morgan Stanley has been working to change the perceptions female graduates have of working for a big bank.” I guess the question this raises is how can this be achieved? Following a huge 2010 in terms of the recruitment market and a rise in intake from some of the UK’s biggest graduate employers, 2011 looks to be just as fruitful for graduates. So what better time for females interested in the financial services industry to pursue this and find out more about what a career in banking could really entail, while the market is ripe and there is a pick of brilliant employers looking for top talent.

Elsie Rutterford is a consultant on the Freshminds Graduate team

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