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Asia: International Banks Hiring More Women in Senior Roles

Asia: International Banks Hiring More Women in Senior Roles

Female bankers at the top of the food chain aren’t all that common. A recent poll in Financial News [April 2011 Hong Kong] found that less than 5 per cent of senior executives in investment banks are women.

In Asia, however, a string of senior appointments and requests to recruiters to select more women for interviews suggest that banks are starting to make progress on gender diversity.

A new boss in town

Last month, Nomura appointed Junko Nakagawa as its new chief financial officer and its first female senior executive in more than 80 years.

Other new promotions include:

• Wei Christianson becomes co-CEO of Morgan Stanley, Asia-Pacific ex-Japan.
RBS hires Sherry Liu, formerly from JP Morgan, as its chairman and chief executive in China.
Citi appoints Tracey Woon as head of investment banking for South East Asia.

Firms focus on females

In the last two months alone, John Mullally, manager, financial services, Robert Walters Hong Kong, had two large international investment banks approach him requesting female talent to fill senior positions in operations and infrastructure.

He says: “They informally let me know that their preference was to hire a woman for these roles. Their rationale was that senior executive positions were predominately held by men, and as part of the gender equality programmes across the banks globally, they wanted to redress that balance.”

This doesn’t mean these banks will turn down qualified male candidates, but they are “more likely” to focus their search on women candidates, says Mullally.

Kensy Sy, head of practice, banking, Greater China, Talent2, says in the last two years he’s seen about a 10 to 20 per cent increase in requests for female candidates from banks who are looking to “better diversify” their workforce.

Road’s still long

Sy admits there are difficulties: “Although we would like to hire these female bankers at the senior level, sometimes it can be quite hard because the talent pool of experienced candidates is rather small.”

Both recruiters say working in banking can be especially tough for working mums, which they cite as a reason why many women drop out after having kids.

What can be done to encourage more female leaders in banking?

Perhaps more flexi-time work arrangements to better accommodate mothers, suggests Mullally, who doesn’t see many firms in Asia use these practices.

“There is obviously a greater willingness now amongst banks to hire women into senior positions so we will start to see the percentage climb, but it will be slower than many people think,” he adds.

Author: Shree Ann Mathavan 

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