UK MPs call for end of ‘alpha male’ culture in financial services

UK MPs call for end of ‘alpha male’ culture in financial services

The UK’s Treasury Committee has called for the abolition of ‘alpha-male’ culture in finance and more to be done to encourage the progression of women to senior levels across financial services.

The committee has published a “unanimously-agreed” report calling for the reform of bonus negotiations and promotion of flexible working to abolish ‘alpha-male’ culture in finance and encourage the progression of women to senior levels.

Key recommendations include:

  • Assess bonuses against clear criteria to abolish ‘alpha-male’ culture
  • Remove stigma of flexible working by senior men leading by example; encourage firms to publish strategies for closing gender pay gaps
  • Partners and subsidiaries should not be exempt from gender pay gap reporting and firms should re-examine recruitment and promotion policies to eliminate unconscious bias, which will avoid potential applicants being deterred and avoid ‘groupthink’.

Senior levels
The ‘alpha male’ culture that permeates financial services has been dubbed as ” the overwhelming reason that women said they do not want to get involved at the senior levels of the financial services sector, which becomes a self-reinforcing barrier.

The report – published earlier today – found that the alpha-male culture in some organisations is evident in bonus negotiations, where it’s perceived that men argue more forcefully for bonuses than women. This can result in higher rewards for men, and acts as a deterrent for women. Performance bonuses should be assessed against clearly objective and formulaic criteria.
Flexible working can be perceived as a “female” approach to working, and can adversely affect career progression.

Long working hours based in the office can be unnecessary in some roles, particularly with modern technology, but a culture of “presenteeism” persists.

Nicky Morgan MP, chair of the Treasury Committee, said: “The reporting of gender pay gaps at financial services firms confirms that a large gap exists between men and women working in finance, in part due to significantly more men than women in higher earning and more senior positions.

Culture change

“The next step must be for firms to set out how they will abolish their gender pay gap and support the progression of women. Firms should focus on changing the culture in financial services firms, which remains a deterrent for women, especially the bonus culture.”

Morgan, pictured left,  added that the benefits of gender diversity are highlighted in the report, including better financial performance, reduced groupthink and more open discussions.

The average (mean) gender pay gap per hour at banks and building societies in the UK is 35%. The average (mean) gender pay gap for bonuses at banks in the UK is 52 per cent.

Now that a large gender pay gap has been confirmed in the financial services sector by firms reporting their data, firms should now be required to publish their strategies for overcoming their gap and supporting the progression of women.

Unconscious bias

“Unconscious bias” can influence senior staff recruiting and promoting in their own image and legacy requirements in recruiting, such as “masculine” language, or requiring a degree or certain hours to be worked, should be challenged to ensure that all requirements are strictly necessary, the report also found.

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Gary Robinson

Commercial Director, Head of Video at International Investment.

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