How big is the gender pay gap in our profession and how do we eliminate it?
According to data collected by the Office for National Statistics, women are paid 20% less than men in the 'actuaries, economists and statisticians' category. Although it can be tempting to get carried away with headlines, as actuaries we know the devil is often in the detail.
One factor that I believe contributes to this gap is flexible working. Women often end up working part-time or flexibly owing to the competing demands of working and raising children. In my experience, this in itself doesn't have to be a career-limiting factor.
I have come across women in our industry who have navigated the challenges of raising children while building a successful career. However, there are too many cases where the price women pay for flexibility is probably too high, driven largely by the perceptions around flexible working. Often, being visible in the workplace carries more weight than the output that is delivered.
As an industry, we could do more to positively encourage flexible working, rather than accepting it passively.
The vision I have is one similar to the IT industry, where being part-time and working flexibly are embraced by all employees, irrespective of seniority and gender. We have some way to go until we reach this vision, but as an industry we are certainly well on our way.
Reena Thakkar, FIA
Executive investment consultant at Momentum Investment Solutions & Consulting
True transparency in pay levels within individual sectors is needed if we are to move forward in terms of first assessing whether a pay gap truly exists and then addressing it. Unless this is tackled first, we inevitably end up with a culture of corporate complacency.
Certainly within the fund management industry, it is unclear whether such a gap exists, as traditionally there tends to be a gender split by function, with a greater proportion of women working within client-facing sales and relationship management roles. I would definitely like to see greater representation within fund management and trading functions. Unfortunately, most of these roles do not tend to support flexible working practices because of the need to operate under controlled environments.
There would need to be a change in hiring practices. A move away from the 'cookie-cutter' approach and an embracing of the value added by having diverse teams is still needed across the industry. In addition, women tend to be more reticent than men in negotiating their salary on entry.
Often the pay gap increases over time because of a lack of further negotiation. Perceptions would need to change to empower more women to have the confidence in salary negotiation.
Theny Thiagarajan, FIA
LDI portfolio manager, Financial Solutions Group, at Insight Investment
As a female actuary working in asset management, I believe that 'what's measured is managed' and 'leading from the front' are the key philosophies to successfully improving the gender pay gap.
I have seen firsthand how a chief executive who feels passionately about this issue can make a significant difference to attitudes and driving change in this area. Schroders was one of the first companies to publish pay gap statistics this year.
When we did the analysis, we realised that we reward men and women fairly for similar work, but that the gap reflects the lower representation of women at senior levels within the organisation, so it is this latter area that specifically needs to be improved.
To manage this, Schroders was one of the first signatories in the UK of the Women in Finance Charter (a pledge for gender balance across financial services, driven by the government). We targeted 30% representation by 2019.
Having made significant progress already, we have increased our target to 33% and will review our target if it is reached by 2019.
We also argue that these issues are part of a broader need for diversity and inclusion. But that's a topic for another day.
Lesley-Ann Morgan, FIA
Global head of defined contribution and retirement at Schroders