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Why are so few women in senior roles at financial institutions? In what areas should financial services firms focus to improve representation of women? Mercer’s new When Women Thrive Financial Services Perspective examines the current representation of women at all career levels in the financial services industry, provides future projections, and highlights key actions to break through the inertia, advance women in the workplace, and realize the benefits of a more diverse workforce. Tackling these issues will yield important benefits for organizations, employees (both male and female), customers, and investors.

21945E_Financial Perspective_Web bannersThe report, based on responses from 67 finance/banking organizations, explores how gender diversity can positively impact culture, enhance connections to clients, embrace competencies leading to growth, and provide a broader talent pool. The key findings and recommendations include:

Engage leaders, managers, and men – to make more rapid progress on gender diversity, change needs to be driven from the top of the organization, which means leadership, ownership, and accountability from the board, CEO, and senior executives.

Actively manage flexible work – one common prescription for improving gender diversity is the implementation of family-friendly, flexible work programs, which support part-time working arrangements and parental leave. However, it’s not enough to simply have the programs; managers must be trained on how to support their colleagues who leverage them.

Focus on filling the talent pipeline and understanding the skills and experience necessary for advancement – effective growth and succession can occur by focusing on systemic, supporting practices to build female talent and sustain gender equality in the long term, specifically increasing the prevalence of women in profit and loss roles important for career advancement in the financial services industry.

Review processes for potential biases – overcome unconscious biases about what it takes to perform at the top of financial services firms that disproportionally disadvantage women, which means reviewing talent management and pay processes to eliminate these barriers.

Develop a holistic strategy that addresses women’s unique needs – to make progress, consider the holistic needs of their female workforce, which means taking careers, health, and wealth into consideration.