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Building and sustaining gender equity in financial services: Within reach?

Deloitte’s series on women in leadership roles expands globally, offering strategies to help firms improve their share of women in senior leadership

Where in the world are financial services firms closest to achieving gender equity among their leadership ranks?

In 2019, we launched our Within Reach series to spark conversations on the progress financial services institutions (FSIs) have made toward achieving gender equity in leadership roles and uncovering strategies that enable meaningful growth in the number of women leaders. To date, our series has focused on some of the largest public US FSIs, but now we are expanding our lens to include women in financial services leadership roles around the world. This article is the first in a new series focused on exploring the data and issues that determine whether worldwide gender equity is indeed within reach.

To get a clear sense of progress across regions, our analyses1 will focus on these key metrics: current share and forecast growth2 of women in financial services over the next decade, by role category (see sidebar), and the multiplier effect3—whether having women in the C-suite created a ripple effect throughout an organisation, resulting in having more women overall in senior leadership roles.

Balancing the numbers

Our assessment of the share of women by role categories in FSIs in 2021 establishes a baseline from where we can measure growth or decline annually. Spanning over two decades (through 2021) and encompassing nearly 23,000 FSIs across more than 160 countries, our data analysis employs a time-series model to forecast potential growth through 2030.

Defining the leadership role categories of women in financial services


C-titled roles at the corporate leadership level (e.g., chief executive officer, chief financial officer, or chief marketing officer).

Senior leadership

Non–C-titled executives (e.g., line-of-business leaders, division chiefs or regional leaders, EVPs, or SVPs or equivalents). Depending on the institution, this may be 1–3 levels below the C-suite.

Next generation

All other workforce titles below senior leadership.

Show more

Oceania leads the C-suite regional forecasts, with nearly 9% projected growth, and is the only region projected to achieve a 30% share of women in C-suite roles over the next decade (figure 1). This is important, as research shows that reaching this 30% threshold is often considered the tipping point for enacting substantive change across an organisation.4 North America and Europe are both expected to exceed 6% growth in women in the C-suite by 2030.

Asia and Oceania are the only regions expected to record growth in the share of women across all role categories—C-suite, senior leadership and next generation—by 2030. Meanwhile, with a 28.3% share in 2021 and forecasted growth to 33.5% by 2030, Africa leads all regions in current and projected growth in the share of women in senior leadership roles.

That said, our analysis indicates that North America, South America, Europe and Africa, also reflect a decline in the share of women in one or more role categories by 2030.5

Viewing these numbers with an industry lens, women’s share of leadership roles within FSIs compares favorably across 11 industries, according to S&P Global’s Gender equality in the workplace report.6

Drivers of change

But the numbers only tell part of the narrative. The programmes and strategies that FSIs enact to increase the representation of women in leadership are the ultimate drivers of sustainable, long-term change.

External factors, such as public policy, cultural norms, investor expectations and corporate social responsibility initiatives can impact gender equity progress. Legislative actions to achieve diversity quotas or government-backed nonbinding board diversity targets vary by country. Some countries, such as Finland and Sweden, look to self-regulation to increase the ratio of women on boards.7 Australia, which also doesn’t have legislative mandates, averages 32% representation of women on boards,8 and is notably influencing our Oceania estimate of a greater than 30% share of women in the C-suite by 2030.

While legislative approaches are primarily aimed at increasing gender diversity on boards, Germany and, more recently, France have set nonboard gender diversity targets for institutions.9 Illustrating that a greater number of women in leadership roles tends to influence board diversity, Deloitte’s Women in the boardroom research has shown that organisations with women CEOs have almost double the number of board seats held by women.10 Our research shows that this phenomenon also applies at the organisational level when looking at the ratio of C-suite to senior leadership levels in FSIs.

Finally, many investors are also monitoring and advocating for gender diversity on boards and within the leadership ranks.11 Credit Suisse’s 2021 “Gender 3000” research found a “diversity premium,” defined as a correlation between more gender-diverse leadership and higher returns on capital, among other financial measures.12

Regardless of region, here are some actions FSIs should consider now that can help improve gender equity:

  • Address persistent challenges, such as child care needs and remote work options—both amplified during the pandemic—to demonstrate their commitment to recruiting, retaining and supporting women.
  • Ensure FSI leaders offer continued support through sponsorship, mentorship and allyship programs and networking opportunities for women at all levels. This is especially important during the pandemic when many employees are working remotely.
  • Evaluate and refine succession-planning and promotion practices to ensure each opportunity is pulling from a diverse slate of candidates. This can help build a diverse pipeline of future leaders.

Our research shows that having women in the C-suite matters. In fact, this level of representation in leadership can be inspiring. “She did not mentor me. She did not sponsor me. But she absolutely inspired me. Because she was there,” a facilitator from Deloitte’s 2019 “The future of women leaders in the financial services industry” panel explained.13 This, in part, illustrates a phenomenon we call the multiplier effect14 (see endnotes for details and methodology): For each woman added to the C-suite, we observed a positive, quantifiable impact on the number of women in senior leadership levels just below the C-suite. In North America, the multiplier effect is 2.9—meaning that every woman added to the C-suite results in nearly three additional women among the senior leadership ranks (figure 2). Europe revealed similar numbers—2.6—and Oceania’s were slightly lower, at 1.8.

Among the other regions—Africa, Asia and South America—a multiplier effect could not be determined. This is because the math, put simply, didn’t add up: While historically the growth of women in the C-suite outpaced those in the senior leadership, there weren’t enough women in FSI C-suites and senior leadership, at the organisational level, to see a ripple effect throughout their organisations. In the coming months, however, this series will delve deeper into data from select individual countries where the multiplier may be evidenced even though at the corresponding regional level a multiplier was not revealed.

For FSIs to drive meaningful change and realise the full power of the multiplier effect across their organisations, they will need to improve diversity at the highest levels. For some institutions, this may represent a fundamental shift in their strategic efforts to build a diverse pipeline. Gender equity in FSIs may be within reach if leadership—both women and men—commit to and act on building and sustaining a diverse workforce.

Deloitte's diversity, equity & inclusion services

Deloitte’s diversity, equity & inclusion (DEI) consulting services change the world by taking a systemic approach to help organisations access and engage a more diverse workforce; build inclusive leadership capabilities; foster a culture of belonging; and embed equity and inclusion across every business function. Contact the authors for more information.

  1. Quantitative analyses: The quantitative analyses reported are based on the Deloitte Center for Financial Services’ proprietary analysis and custom segmentation of financial services institutions’ data from BoardEx LLC from 1998 through December 31, 2021. Where used throughout the report, “financial services” or “FSIs” denote banking, capital markets, commercial real estate, insurance, investment management, and payments provider firms’ industry segments.

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  2. Forecast projections: The 2022–2030 projections for women’s share of C-suite roles, senior leadership roles, and next-generation roles employed the following prediction methodology: The percentage of women for each role category from 1998 to 2021 was considered for modeling purposes. The final models selected for predicting were time-series models that used the Autoregressive Integrated Moving Average model. The data was split into train and test in the proportion of 80-20. Then, a grid-search algorithm was applied to arrive at the best possible model. Diagnostic checks of the selected model were performed and found to be stable for the in-sample data. Out-of-sample predictions were made for the year from 2022 to 2030. Slight recent downward trends are due to our modeling approach, which favors more recent data changes over longer-term trends. In addition, workforce challenges, including pandemic-related transitions, over recent years, are possible contributors to several downward trends reflected in the forecast.

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  3. The multiplier effect: A cross-sectional association analysis was conducted at the organizational level to determine the multiplier effect. We used linear regression to quantify the multiplier effect, which effectively reveals an x-fold change in senior leadership for each additional woman added to the C-suite. As observed in several regions, if a linear correlation does not exist, the multiplier effect is not statistically relevant, and is deemed not applicable for a particular region at this time.

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  4. Alison Rogish, Desiree D’Souza, and Neda Shemluck, Leadership, representation, and gender equity in financial services: Within reach , Deloitte Insights, November 4, 2021.

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  5. See forecast projections.

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  6. Marie Froehlicher et al., Gender equality in the workplace: Going beyond women on the board , S&P Global, February 5, 2021. S&P Global’s industry classification of FSIs does not include real estate. Role categorizations ascribed in S&P Global’s report may differ from the analyses conducted for this report. The positioning of FSIs in this statement is for the reader’s reference purposes only.

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  7. Deloitte, Women in the boardroom: A global perspective—7th edition , accessed February 8, 2022.

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  8. Ibid.

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  9. Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, “France unanimously votes gender quotas for executive quotas for executive leadership ,” Forbes, May 21, 2021.

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  10. Deloitte, Women in the boardroom: A global perspective—5th edition , accessed February 8, 2022.

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  11. Deloitte, Women in the boardroom: A global perspective—7th edition , accessed February 8, 2022.

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  12. Jessica Hamlin, “The diversity premium: More women, higher returns ,” Institutional Investor, September 28, 2021.

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  13. Alison Rogish et al., Within reach? Achieving gender equity in financial services leadership , Deloitte Insights, November 5, 2019.

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  14. Refer to the note on the multiplier effect.

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The authors, Patty Danielecki, and Samia Hazuria, wish to thank Narasimham Mulakaluri, Alok Ranjan, and Gaurav Vajratkar for their insights, statistical analysis, and other contributions to the development of this report.

Cover image by: Alexis Werbeck

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