Financial services executives expect only slight increases in female leadership levels in next five years

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  • Only 27% of banks and 6% of insurers predict a significant increase in female leaders in next five years
  • Companies can do more to analyze their pipeline of leadership candidates
  • 51% of men believe there is a shortage of female candidates, compared to 8% of women

SINGAPORE, 6 MAY 2016 – While banking and insurance executives recognize their leadership teams are not sufficiently diverse, few expect to bolster those ranks with more female leaders over the next five years, according to Placing gender on the financial services agenda, EY’s global survey of gender diversity at banks and insurers.

The survey of senior banking and insurance executives from 23 countries found only 27% of banking and 6% of insurance respondents expect a “significant” increase in female leaders in the next five years. Sixty-one percent of banking respondents expect a “slight” increase in female leaders in the next five years, as do 72% of insurance respondents.

At the same time, executives surveyed acknowledge the positive effects diverse leadership can have on both financial and non-financial performance.

Marie-Laure Delarue, EY Banking & Capital Markets Leader for Europe, Middle East, India and Africa (EMEIA), says:
“There is a true reality disconnect in the financial services sector. The view of the situation and the actions toward progress are not aligned. We see too often that it takes the longest to achieve gender parity at the leadership ranks, yet those people in leadership have the ability to drive diversity and change throughout the organization. Financial institutions can do more to bring about meaningful change. It is time for banks and insurers to put gender higher on their agendas and take action.”

Men and women have different views on reaching gender parity, according to the survey. Fifty-one percent of men surveyed believe there is a shortage of available female candidates in financial services, compared to just 8% of women.

Amy Ang, EY Financial Services Tax Leader for Asean, says:
“There is a perception that the financial services industry, as compared to other industries, is particularly demanding and takes a certain type of personality to thrive. Women executives often take themselves out of the leadership path by assuming that their desire to be the ‘superwoman’ at work and at home cannot be achieved in this industry. It is therefore critical for leadership teams in financial institutions to walk the talk and implement specific measures to achieve greater gender parity at the top.”

Tara Alex, EY Global Insurance Diversity & Inclusion Leader, says:
“Getting more women to the top requires identifying, developing and then promoting potential leaders. Yet, only 33% of female and 58% of male financial services leaders believe they are effective at promoting women into leadership positions. How can we be certain the leaders of tomorrow won’t leave their financial institutions today? Eliminating this disconnect in the talent pipeline is crucial to making progress toward gender parity.”

The survey results also reveal that financial services companies could do more to understand the data around female leadership. Only 38% of insurance companies and 59% of banks surveyed formally measure progress toward gender parity.

Zaina Ahmed Karim, EY EMEIA Financial Services Diversity & Inclusion Leader, says:
“Where there are metrics in place, most focus on counting the number of women in leadership now. Financial institutions fall short in analyzing who is positioned to be in the next generation of female leaders. If businesses don’t measure women’s journeys from entry level to CEO, they lack the information to understand when, why and how outstanding women fall from the leadership ladder.”

Read the complete report at


Notes to Editors

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This news release has been issued by Ernst & Young Solutions LLP, a member of the global EY organization.

About the survey
As part of EY’s commitment to building a better working world, EY asked senior banking and insurance executives from 23 countries about gender diversity. The participants included board executives and board members, C-level officers, executive directors and heads of business units.

Respondents were 63% female and 37% male and averaged 48 years of age. Nearly half have worked in financial services for their entire career, with more than 84% having 10 or more years of industry experience. Their functional backgrounds span finance, legal and risk management to technology, operations and sales marketing.

The research was part of EY’s interviews with business leaders in automotive; consumer products and retail; financial services (banking and capital markets, and insurance); life sciences; oil and gas; and power and utilities.