While the financial service industry has made much progress in its treatment of female employees and clients, a gender equality gap remains, according to a new BMO Wealth Management study.
Released to mark International Women's Day on March 8, the study finds that 83 percent of Canadians (including 79 percent of women) believe that the financial services sector has become more equitable in the way it treats female employees compared to their male counterparts in the last 20 years.
Further, 85 percent (83 percent women) think that the industry is doing a better job of treating female clients more equitably over this same period. However, the study finds that Canadians believe more efforts are needed.
With respect to female employees in financial services, the study found that:
- Fifty-five percent of Canadians (62 percent women) believe there is still a 'glass ceiling' that hinders women from advancing their careers beyond a certain point;
- Two-thirds of Canadians (two-thirds of women) say that men have more career opportunities than their female counterparts; and
- Eighty-seven percent (89 percent women) believe that the sector should be doing more to help female employees achieve a better work/home life balance.
Survey respondents were also asked questions related to how they felt female clients were treated by the financial industry:
- Sixty-four percent of Canadians (70 percent women) believe that male clients are treated in a preferential way over female clients by the financial services industry;
- Further, 67 percent (74 percent women) believe that men are taken more seriously by the sector; and
- Seventy-nine percent of Canadians (81 percent women) believe that, when a male-female couple meets with a financial professional, the employee tends to view the male client as the primary decision maker.
When asked about the financial services industry's treatment of women, 79 percent of Canadians say they have a favorable perception of the sector. Financial services ranks behind the retail (88 percent) and health services (89 percent) industries, but ahead of the trade (42 percent) and automotive (39 percent) industries.
"There's lots of room for our industry to improve and enhance the way we interact with female clients," says Myra Cridland, head, BMO Harris Private Banking. "Not only is it the equitable and right thing to do, it also makes good business sense. Women currently control one-third of all wealth in North America ─ a number growing at a rate of 8 percent annually."