(Bloomberg) — This year’s shift toward more flexible working during the coronavirus outbreak may in the long run help narrow the gender gap in the financial services industry, a rare silver lining from a pandemic that’s disproportionately damaged the job prospects of women.
Remote working has encouraged a shift in the perception of what roles can be done flexibly, according to a report commissioned by the Women in Banking & Finance network. A wider acceptance of such practices may help keep female workers, who are oftentimes the primary care giver and rely more on flexibility, to stay in the industry.
“Without this change in narrative, women who take flexible working will always have a higher likelihood of being looked upon as having lower labor market attachment,” Grace Lordan, an associate professor in behavioral science at the London School of Economics, said in the report. “Because women face more constraints than men, a lack of flexibility is more likely to cause women to leave, resulting in the missing middle.”
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Some 93% of females currently working in the industry and 94% of male employees now say they can do their job flexibly, compared to about three quarters of female ex-financiers and half of male former workers, a survey of 1,703 people found.
The pandemic has put women and other underrepresented groups at greater risk of career setbacks and unemployment because they hold a larger share of the jobs hurt by lockdowns and other restrictions. Women also were more likely to quit their jobs to care for children because of school shutdowns or lack of child care.
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The findings are part of an initiative to support and retain women working in financial services, an industry that has had a longstanding and persistent gender gap. The report, which is sponsored by lenders including Citigroup Inc. and Barclays Plc, also found that more women aspired to higher senior leadership than men, but 79% of women said they saw barriers to their career aspirations compared to 58% of men.
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