With our inboxes filling up with updates from Milkround News and deadlines for internship and graduate placement applications fast approaching, now is a time where thinking about the future and our opportunities is unavoidable. Before long, our time at university will be over and we will have to enter the ‘real world’.
With this thought in mind as I frantically ploughed through careers emails, one in particular caught my attention. Barclays Capital, the investment banking division of Barclays, was holding an ‘Afternoon Tea with a Twist’ for female students. The opportunity to discover more about careers in banking whilst sipping tea and devouring cakes was rather appealing. Another principal attraction, however, was the female focus of the event. How do women fit into the stereotypically male-dominated world of investment banking?
At first glance, inequality remains a cause for concern in the financial sector. The Guardian published a report in April this year regarding women’s poor representation, particularly at senior level. According to a member of the Treasury Select Committee, “While female board members are far rarer in the private sector than in the public, only 9% of the boards of FTSE 100 banks are female, compared with 12.2% across the FTSE 100 as a whole.”
Barclays Capital were in fact one of the companies facing inequality accusations as it transpired that within a promotion of 80 managing directors, only five were women. In response to these worrying statistics, Harriet Harman, then Minister for Women and Equality, said that British firms must change their boardrooms from “no-go areas for women” to environments adopting female talent in order to “flourish and prosper in the 21st century.”
And it gets worse. Daily Finance revealed in 2009 that the finance district has one of the highest gender wage gaps in the UK economy. Full-time female employees can expect to earn a whopping 55 percent less than their male counterparts. Not only is their annual gross pay significantly lower, but according to figures from the U.K’s Equality and Human Rights Commission, even their bonuses are affected, as in London women receive on average 80 percent less than their male colleagues. With these shocking statistics, it is not surprising that banking is perceived as a sexist and chauvinistic domain.
However, with the Barclays Capital Afternoon Tea as an example, banks are actively encouraging female graduates to enter the banking trade. J.P Morgan is another company targeting female students with its Winning Women -Inside Investment Banking event: a two-day taster of life in the bank with the opportunity to network with some of the most senior women and advice on internship applications. One participant this year commented that the experience “worked to break down some of the barriers women feel when entering the industry.” The Bank of England has also got in on the action by hosting a networking event last month for female Economics students in London.
My own experience with the Barclays Capital Tea was very similar and I felt they targeted their female audience particularly effectively. Split into groups of six, we worked as teams to decorate cupcakes in our chosen themes as part of a competition led by Laura Shiell, from Cubbington Cakes. Within this relaxed and fun environment, we were given the opportunity to ask questions and network with recent female graduates and members of the Campus Recruitment team, in addition to lots of Barclays Capital goodies including jelly beans and a teapot.
Regarding the alarming statistics concerning gender wage gaps and unequal representation, various measures are being put into practise to alter the situation. In the same report in which the problems were outlined, the Equality and Human Rights Commission proposed some recommendations including implementation of a staff training and communications programme on gender equality and diversity.
So in response to my initial question, women definitely have a place in the banking world. Yes, the statistics may be discouraging, but the recent female-focused programmes are just one example of how the UK is trying to transform this inherently masculine culture into something accessible and inviting for its female graduates.