Good female bankers get more interviews and higher offers than men
On International Women's Day it's standard to laud the women in senior roles in banking and to lament the fact that they're still a minority. But while banks still have a long way to go before gender parity is achieved at managing director level, they are unquestionably trying.
The people on the front lines of this effort are the financial services headhunters. Whether in London or New York, they say they're being asked to find one thing: good, senior, females.
"The hiring process is highly supportive of women being represented as the last stages of the interview," says Russell Clarke at London search firm Figtree Partners. "But once you get to that stage, banks will try as far as possible to hire people on merit."
Banks aren't in the business of positive discrimination, but they are in the business of ensuring that women are on shortlists. And if an equally good woman is up against an equally good man, the woman will probably be hired.
"Every shortlist we deliver has to have between 20% and 40% of women," says one New York headhunter. "If it doesn't have that, we need to justify why the women aren't there. In some cases, it means that women who wouldn't otherwise be in the top 10 candidates make it onto the list."
The push to shortlist women means that banks can be more flexible when it comes to women's experience, says another (male) headhunter who works on both sides of the Atlantic. "If we don't have any women on the list, we might look at adding women from related product areas," he says. "This can make it easier for women to shift from role to role."
The need for more senior women can also make it easier for female candidates to get a new job a notch higher than their current one. "If you're a female VP, banks will consider promoting you when they hire you," says one headhunter. "They're much less likely to do that for men."
None of this means that women will get hired. It does mean they will get interviews and that if they perform well in those interviews, they have a strong chance of getting the role. Ultimately, hiring is still merit-based. But where banks decide a senior woman merits hiring, they will pull out all the stops to get her on board. "If a bank interviews a woman and a man with an identical compensation history, and they are both good and reluctant to move, it's likely the woman will be offered more than the man," says one headhunter.
"Good female MDs today receive huge numbers of headhunter calls," concludes another.
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