A senior banker at one of the UK biggest financial institutions called a regulatory official "little lady" during a recent supervisory visit, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has revealed.
Megan Butler, FCA’s executive director of supervision, hopes “this sort of throwaway comment” can be left in the past, as she spoke about the regulator’s efforts to improve diversity and gender equality across UK financial services.
Speaking today (22 March) at the Women in Finance Summit in London, Ms Butler revealed only around 13 per cent of FCA approved individuals in trading firms are women.
This number rises slightly to 16 per cent in investment management, she added. The best rates are in general insurance and retail banking, where women make up 19.22 per cent and 18.09 per cent of the workforce respectively.
The gender pay gap is also striking, Ms Butler said.
“Some banks have reported gender disparities of around 50 per cent for wages and 80 per cent for bonuses. Others are now releasing equally bad or indeed worse data.”
“It will make difficult reading for a number of firms. My main point this morning is therefore a simple one. We need to keep up the pressure for progress.”
The FCA “is heavily invested in making sure this happens,” Ms Butler argued.
The watchdog's supervisors will specifically ask financial services companies whether they are hiring equal numbers of female and male graduates, whether female employees are rising through the ranks in equal numbers, and if the firm pays attention to the gender pay gap, she said.
The FCA itself has signed up to the Women in Finance Charter, a series of recommendations on how to improve board diversity.
Currently 122 financial services firms, employing more than half a million people and covering nearly half of the sector, have signed up to the charter.
Ms Butler said the watchdog is targeting 45 per cent of its senior leadership team identifying as female by 2020, and 50 per cent by 2025.
She added: “We are not there yet. Our senior leadership team is 36 per cent female and 64 per cent male.
“Our gender pay gap is 19.28 per cent. This is a differential demonstrating we still have a long way to go. The UK’s average gender pay gap is 18.1 per cent. In finance, it’s 37.4 per cent.”