We’ve seen industry titans like Hollywood bigwig Harvey Weinstein toppled and the men-only fundraising event for Britain’s rich and famous, the Presidents Club, exposed for being a breeding ground for sexual harassment, among countless other persons and firms brought to task.
Slowly but surely, businesses and industries are waking up to the fact that there is a disparity between the way men and women are remunerated that needs to be addressed.
By comparison, the asset management industry seems decidedly less “woke”.
Salary benchmarking site, Emolument, has put the gender pay gap across the UK’s asset management industry at 27%, with men earning a median £93,000 ($129,137, €104,027) compared with £68,000 ($87,480, €76,063) for women.
By contrast, the national gap is 18% and only 9% for full-time employees, according to the Office for National Statistics.
The recent influx of reports from asset managers outlining their gender pay gap is a rude reminder of just how far the industry has to go in tackling this issue.
And the fact that only 10 firms have released their figures is also discouraging.
Those firms that have reported, in accordance with new regulation from the UK Government Equalities Office, showed pay gaps ranging from 28% to 42%.
Even Hermes Investment Management, which prides itself on being an early adopter of environment social governance (ESG) investing, has copped to a 30.2% gap, which chief executive Saker Nusseibeh said was likely to be on par with the rest of the industry.
Each firm has unsurprisingly expressed its dismay and disappointment over the current status quo. “We can and must do better,” lamented Jupiter Asset Management chief executive Maarten Slenderbroek. “This is simply not good enough,” said Nusseibeh.
The problem, they stress, is not an equal pay issue. It’s a reflection of the fact that more men occupy top senior positions than women in the asset management industry. While this is certainly a problem among fund groups, it doesn’t address the fact that there is a pay gap across all levels of the organisation.
On Monday, Chelsea Financial Services held its annual speed interview event, which featured a panel of all female fund managers for the first time.
Speaking to the managers in attendance, none were shocked by the initial pay gap reports.
“The numbers don’t look brilliant but that’s not a surprise,” admitted Alexandra Jackson, who manages the Rathbones UK Opportunities fund. “No one thought they were going to look great.”
“You’re always a bit disappointed and surprised,” said Janus Henderson UK Property manager Ainslie McLennan, who added that we have only seen “the tip of the iceberg in the finance sector”.
What was striking was how uncomfortable many of these women were in discussing the issue of the gender pay gap and how some seemed willing to defend an industry that was statistically probably paying them less.
Although Sue Round, Edentree Investment Management’s director of group investments, said the gap was “sad but true,” she stressed that “it’s probably unfair to focus just on asset management”.
“When you start to look across other professional environments, like the legal profession, it’s probably quite a bit worse.”
Being the best house on a bad block isn’t exactly a winning endorsement of the UK fund industry.
When asked how she felt about the 42% pay gap at her firm, Standard Life’s Abby Glennie said that getting more women into senior roles “takes time”.
Glennie works on a team of six that happens to be 50/50 men and women, a set-up she conceded is “maybe quite unusual”.
“I think it would be great if we could encourage more females but also just a more diverse range of backgrounds and talents in the industry. I don’t think it has to ever be a male/female debate. I think it’s really encouraging when you get people of all different backgrounds, particularly when you’re working in a team job.”
Glennie is right, adopting more progressive gender policies takes time. But where is the general outrage from female fund managers right now after finding out that on average their pay doesn’t even come close to stacking up their male colleagues?
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