Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

It is not easy for a young woman to make her mark in the investment banking industry. Globally, the domain of investment banking remains a fortress of male domination. 

This is evidenced in the UK, where a government initiative requiring organisations to publish figures for the different amounts they pay men and women (the gender pay gap) has revealed a highly skewed employee base in leading British and some international banks.

The figures, published in 2018, show that men earn almost 60% more than women on average at some of the UK’s top financial institutions, for the same jobs. It includes international firms such as Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan, which have large operations in Britain.

Citigroup disclosed in January that its female employees around the world are paid just 71% of what men earn. Citigroup employs more than 200,000 people in more than 100 countries, and more than half of those employees are female. A Citigroup shareholder group that sought data on the pay gap said the bank is the first US company to disclose such figures.

In all probability, SA’s investment banking sector reflects the same trend, but here there is a dearth of targeted research, which is problematic in itself. The most we can know is that given the global understanding for a solid business case for companies to embrace gender mainstreaming, there are guidelines such as in King IV and the JSE gender listing requirements to drive this notion forward.

Yet only one woman CEO has been recorded among the top 40 JSE listed companies, and she has just retired (Maria Ramos, former CEO of Absa Group).

Brava Bravura

It has always been the Bravura philosophy that gender parity is fundamental to growing economies and creating business competitiveness. Yet in practical terms, women often still have to work much harder to carve a place for themselves in investment banking. There are not many women in SA’s investment banking environment, and the ones who make it often have to be as hard as nails. Many companies have a “boys club”, which can be exclusionary, even if this might be unintentional.

Even within my own company I see an organic skew towards male employees. The reason for this is a recruitment pipeline in SA that somehow continues to attract and produce male graduates. To remedy this, Bravura established a graduate programme aimed at actively attracting young, talented, black, female graduates.

We brought on board two eager and talented young graduates who are working with us — and learning from us — for a 12- to 24-month period with the hope that they may become full-time employees at the conclusion of the programme.

This is not lip service; it is an intensive programme and the graduates are active members of the team. Our selected graduates are strong all-rounders, having produced exceptional academic results in parallel to leadership accolades. They have an appetite to succeed in the investment banking environment.

There is a cycle of gender inequality in environments such as investment banking and the wider financial services sector. Research in financial services worldwide shows that although 90% of financial service company executives indicate a commitment to gender diversity, in practice only 19% of top executives are female. As many as 42% of US women surveyed in the financial services sector believe that gender would hinder their future advancement.

At a senior level, the same research show only one in five executives are women. As a consequence of having fewer women in senior roles there are fewer women to mentor and guide junior female executives (findings indicate that men and women tend to be mentored by the same gender). This means the cycle of women being lost to valuable guidance and potential promotion continues.

• Hay is founder of investment banking firm Bravura.