Talent war ‘unique’ opportunity to close gender pay gap

Hiring needs in the industry are creating an opportunity to hire more women and finally narrow the gender pay gap. However, experts say that asset managers will need to review their hiring practices in order to appeal to women more.

Kirsty Pineger, head of asset management at Bruin, says “all firms are looking to hire” post pandemic.

She says: “The prevalence and increase in [environmental, social and governance] has caused a huge amount of demand in this space. Coupled with regulatory demands, this has meant that hiring has remained an area of focus.” “Obviously, that is the time where a lot of companies are able to address the gender pay gap,” she says.

According to Ignites Europe analysis, the asset management sector has one of the highest pay gaps in the UK. Available data show that the average pay gap in the asset management industry was 25.2 per cent in 2021, compared with a national UK gender pay gap of 15.4 per cent.

Ms Pineger says asset managers should do more “at a grassroots level” in order to build a “pipeline of talent for the future across the industry, not just in your own firm”. But she warns that “the basics and ‘rules’ around hiring women” are also important in order to attract talent. According to Ms Pineger, it is a “known fact that women take more convincing than men to go forward for a role but also won’t apply to a position if they feel that they don’t meet 80 per cent of the job criteria”. Therefore “firms need to think about the language they use in job adverts and job specs but also allow more time to hire women”, she says.

Experts add that more transparency could help to attract more women.

Helen Farr, employment partner at Taylor Wessing, says pay transparency “undoubtedly improves pay equality” and “ensures people understand the pay parameters for the job role and push for better pay”. She adds that certain employers are publishing pay scales to eliminate the pay gap but it is still “rare” in the financial services sector.

Ms Pineger agrees that salary bands would help. She adds that companies could offer more prescriptive descriptions of maternity leave policies, shared parental leave policies, mentor schemes, parental support programmes and female leadership acceleration programmes. Firms must also look at their recruitment and interview processes more closely, she says. Firms should consider blind CV submissions, diverse interview panels, and transparent policies around maternity, promotions and pay reviews, says Ms Pineger.

One of the biggest issues facing asset managers is that the data show that women remain very under-represented at senior levels of the industry. According to the data published by the UK government, the average percentage of women in the top pay quartile across the UK asset management industry was 24.1 per cent in 2021, higher than the national average of 20 per cent.

Invesco had the lowest percentage of women in the top pay quartile, with 15 per cent, followed by Pictet Asset Management and Allianz Global Investors, with 18 per cent and 19 per cent respectively. A spokesperson for Invesco says: “We have increased the proportion of female hires in 2021. However, under-representation will probably take longer than we would like, with a very low employee turnover rate and high percentage of men in senior positions.”

Franklin Templeton has the third-highest percentage of women in the bottom pay quartile, at 65 per cent. “We are committed to a series of initiatives […] and seek to continually evolve and reform our processes to meet our targets of creating a diverse, equal and inclusive workplace for all,” says a Franklin spokesperson.

Ann Franke, chief executive officer of the Chartered Management Institute, says companies should consider “sponsorship programmes”, which allow senior leaders to sponsor talented younger women, making sure women employees are being “properly developed to gain promotions”.

Last week Ignites Europe reported on experts who believe the gender pay gap disclosure should become mandatory for companies under 250 employees in the UK.

Ms Farr says closing the gender pay gap across the industry would “improve the acquisition and retention of talent”. She says women must be “better represented at the senior level” before making “real progress” in improving the pay gap. “To achieve change, it has to be driven from the top down,” she adds.

Ms Franke says “setting up a committee” within the industry is “proven to work”. “Get together yearly, rank the percentage of women on the boards and in key managerial positions, publish the figures and discuss the progress,” she says. “Shine a light on the companies that have done the best and the worst, share with the rest of the community what they are doing.”