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OMFIF Reveals Possible 140 Year Wait for Gender Parity in Financial Services

The Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF) has revealed that, at the current rate of progress, it will take 140 years to reach gender parity in senior leadership positions, at the launch of the 10th edition of its ‘Gender Balance Index’.

The gender balance index tracks the number of senior positions held by women across 186 central banks, as well as major global public pension funds, sovereign funds and commercial banks. It assigns scores to individual institutions based on the number of women in senior management or board positions. By revealing these numbers, the GBI aims to mobilise decision-makers to do better in promoting women and measuring progress.

The shocking 140-year stat comes from a look into the 336 institutions covered in the index; of which only 14 per cent are actually led by women. While the discourse around gender equality and equity continues to play an important role in the financial services industry, recent years haven’t signified any significant meaningful change. In 2022, only 13.7 per cent of the institutions covered in the gender balance index were led by women – signifying a very minor 0.3 per cent increase in one year. Similarly, in 2021 the percentage of female representation in these roles was only 13.3 per cent.

Despite disappointing progress at the top, some of the numbers highlighted by OMFIF’s index made for better reading. Women made up 24 per cent of deputy governors and C-suite staff in these institutions and 30 per cent of the 6,221 senior staff across all institutions in the index.

However, while OMFIF found higher proportions lower down the ladder, the stats show that males still dominate C-suite roles. The issues also clearly do not improve, as the number of women in higher roles almost halve in comparison.

Is progress actually slowing?

The number of women heading central banks (including regional Federal Reserve banks and the European Central Bank) currently sits at 22. While OMFIF recognises that this is the highest number since the first edition of the GBI 10 years ago, it is only one more than it was in 2014.

This revelation may show that progress is actually slowing down. Of the 32 central banks that changed their leaders over the past year, only four appointed women (13 per cent). The 2022 index recorded six women who became central bank governors out of 26 changes (23 per cent). Further emphasising the issue, 11 per cent of central banks still lack any women in senior staff positions.

The culture of financial services 

Clive Horwood, managing editor and deputy chief executive of OMFIF, discussed the importance of a change in culture to level out the playing field.

Clive Horwood on Gender index
Clive Horwood, managing editor and deputy chief executive of OMFIF

Horwood explained: “Of particular note is the analysis OMFIF’s team carries out on the type of role held by senior women, which is a crucial indicator of whether they have the opportunity to reach the top of the institution. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to resolving this issue of slow progress. Clearly, a proactive strategy should help.

“But there is no direct causality between mentorship programmes, quotas, parental leave policies and a better GBI score. This suggests that the key to success is less tangible – perhaps it is as much about culture as anything, in an institution as well as in the country or society in which it operates.”

“The presence of female leaders has an important impact. However, it will be refreshing when those leaders are celebrated purely for their talents and achievements rather than also for their gender. Only at that point – where a woman being in charge is seen as nothing remotely unusual – will the culture of financial services feel truly balanced.”

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