A recent Goldman Sachs report suggests that Australia would be $180m better off by closing the gap between female and male participation, and yet progress remains painfully slow.  Collins has invested over 100 hours in researching the current representation of female employees in the Global Investment Banks and Domestic Institutional Banks in Australia and how well these companies are implementing practices and policies regarding hiring, career development, and work-life balance which aim to reduce gender inequality.  Most conversations lasted around 30 minutes, and with over 100 hours of research undertaken during this process, we have amassed a significant insight into, not only the numbers, but the sentiment around the issues.  In total, we have spoken to well over 70 senior women in our market, representing around 30% of the less than 10% who currently work in front line, revenue generating roles in Australia.  Our network, tenure in the markets, skill at engaging them, and our guarantee of confidentiality, has allowed us to have frank conversations of a qualitative nature with senior women about the key obstacles they face.  From these conversations, we have been able to analyse the recurring themes around what works and what doesn’t in overcoming these obstacles.

The women we have spoken to have worked hard within the existing system to get where they are.  In the majority of cases, these are not conversations they would be prepared to have with their managers or HR, lest they appear to be the squeaky wheel.  They seek not to espouse a ‘cause’, but are often frustrated where any formation as a gender-specific group is met with raised eyebrows by their male colleagues.  Against this background, the opportunity to speak on a no-names basis was one that was almost universally taken up, and all but one contributor (who felt that she would never recommend a woman embark on a role in the dealing room based on her own experience) was keen to hear feedback at the end of the process.

The survey contained a range of questions proposed in a more informal way, and covered six relevant themes: representation, work-life balance, mentorship and training, barriers to leadership, initiatives that are seen to work, and perception of where their organisation sat in relation to its competitors.  All information was gathered on the basis of anonymity in order to increase participation.