Missed opportunities for gender balance

Why aren’t more women reaching the top in finance?

The 11th edition of OMFIF’s Gender Balance Index lays bare the story of equality in financial institutions. While there are more women in senior positions across central banks and top financial institutions this year, only 14% of the 63 institutions with new governors or chief executive officers in the index appointed women to those roles. At this rate of change, the prospect of gender parity in leadership remains a long way away.

The GBI tracks the presence of women and men in senior positions at financial institutions – with an expanded dataset this year. OMFIF now covers 6,540 individuals across 335 institutions, including 185 central banks, 50 pension funds, 50 sovereign funds and 50 commercial banks. The proportion of female leaders in the 335 institutions in the GBI increased to 16% this year – its highest ever share, from 14% in 2023 (Figure 1). Most of the progress was found in central banks where the number of female governors increased to 29 from 23 in 2023. This is the biggest annual jump since the inception of the index.

Among all institutions, pension funds have the highest share of women in the top rank: the share of female CEOs increased to 28% from 24% in 2023. However, commercial banks have regressed. The share of female CEOs fell to 12% this year from 16% in 2023. Lower still are sovereign funds, with 10% of those in our sample led by women.

However, gender parity in financial institutions more broadly continues to be a distant reality. Out of 39 new central bank governors in the index this year, only 18% are women. Two of the nine new CEOs appointed in pension funds in the index were female. But commercial banks and sovereign funds missed the mark entirely, with no women among the new CEO appointments in these groups.

Slow progress matters here as the appointment of female leaders can encourage positive changes in gender balance across senior positions. In commercial banks led by women, GBI scores have increased by 24 points on average since 2021, compared to six points for those led by men. The share of women in C-suite positions in pension funds grew three times faster in funds led by women compared to those led by men between 2022 and 2024.

Figure 1. Missed opportunities to appoint new female leaders

New governors and CEOs by institution type, %

Share of women Share of men Number of institutions with new leaders
Central banks 18 82 39
Pension funds 22 78 9
Commercial banks 0 100 9
Sovereign funds 0 100 6
Overall 14 86 63

Source: OMFIF analysis

The story of slow progress is also evident across institution types. Aggregate GBI scores increased for three of the four institution groups compared to 2023. Sovereign funds saw a notable increase, from 28 to 24. Scores also crept higher for commercial banks and central banks but remain below 40. Pension funds are the only group with a decline this year – though they remain the most gender-balanced with an aggregate GBI score of 48.

While the annual changes present a dismal picture of improvements in gender balance, a long-term view does inspire some confidence (Figure 2). Average GBI scores for all institution types have increased by at least eight points since their inclusion in the index. For central banks and sovereign funds, there has been a 14-point rise in their aggregate GBI scores since 2018.

Figure 2. Improvements among institutions over the long term

Average GBI scores

Source: OMFIF Gender Balance Index 2018-24

Note: Commercial banks were included in the index from 2021 onwards. The sample of pension funds and sovereign funds included in the index changed in 2022 to cover 50 of the largest institutions by assets under management across regions.


The 2024 report also shines a light on women in senior technology-related roles at financial institutions. While overall female representation in these positions matches that across all senior roles – 31% – stark differences between institutions remain.

In commercial banks, only 13% of the 31 chief technology or chief digital officer roles are held by women. Worse still are pension funds where there is only one woman out of 10 senior tech roles at these institutions. On the other side of the spectrum, central banks and sovereign funds have a higher share of women in senior technology-related roles than in leadership positions. Women hold 39% of senior tech roles at central banks. In sovereign funds, the balance skews towards women as they hold four of the seven senior tech roles. This could be a promising new area for female leadership at these institutions, which have historically had the lowest scores among the different groups.

Despite the glimmers of progress in some institutions and roles, missed opportunities for better gender balance are more evident than before. Still the question remains: why aren’t more women reaching the top?

Arunima Sharan is Senior Research Analyst, Economic and Monetary Policy Institute, OMFIF.

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