Carving out new opportunities to improve gender balance

Senior technology roles in financial institutions could be a promising avenue for women in leadership

While the glass ceiling remains firmly in place for women across all industries, the gender gap in the technology industry is much starker.

The tech industry is typically known for being a male-dominated space that women face far more barriers to entering. These range from discouragement from pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects at school to the lack of supportive human resources policies in the workplace. But could senior tech roles in financial institutions create more opportunities for women in leadership?

OMFIF’s Gender Balance Index 2024 extended its analysis to put a spotlight on women in tech roles. The benefits of female representation in the workplace have been widely documented, but due to the historical gender disparity, they matter especially in the tech space.

At first glance, the level of female representation in senior tech-related roles is on par with the share of women across all senior roles at 31%. This is nowhere close to parity, as Martin Čihák, adviser at the International Monetary Fund, pointed out when speaking at the GBI launch: ‘under-representation [of women] is the same in these roles’. There are also vast differences among institutions (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Female (under)representation varies across institutions

Share of women in senior roles, %

Note: No data at executive committee level for central banks. Senior tech roles at central banks include women heading payments departments or those in positions with an explicit technology or fintech innovation mandate. In commercial banks, pension funds and sovereign funds, it includes C-suite roles that have a technology or digital remit

Source: OMFIF analysis

In central banks, though, the share of women in senior technology-related roles surpasses the overall share of women in senior positions – 39% compared to 31%. When asked about why this representation is important, Anikó Szombati, chief digital officer at Magyar Nemzeti Bank said, ‘I think women in general are more open to learning and constantly improving, and in all these technology-related roles, this is a must’.

Developments in the digital space continue to advance through the financial landscape. Now, 22 central banks in our index have explicit tech-focused roles. Promisingly, almost 60% (across 16 banks) of these roles are held by women. Women also head the payments departments in 31% of the central banks, where fintech and innovation often falls under their realm of responsibilities. The high level of female representation here suggests this is a possible avenue to boost women in senior leadership positions at central banks more broadly.

However, women are severely underrepresented in commercial banks. Only four (13%) banks, out of 31, have a female CTO or CDO. This is half the share of women in ExCos overall (26%), amid a decline in the proportion of women in all senior positions in commercial banks. In an industry that already underwhelms with its lack of female representation, this suggests the ladder is even harder to climb for women in tech-related roles within commercial banks.

Only 17% of our sample of global public funds have tech-focused roles among senior positions. Yet, despite the small sample, it is still encouraging to see that, of the seven CTO positions in the sovereign funds included in the index, four are held by women – two of whom are in sub-Saharan African institutions. As sovereign funds have the lowest average GBI score of all institutions at 28, female representation in these positions indicate On the other hand, pension funds – which have the highest average GBI score of 48 – fare poorly in this metric. Only one fund has a female CTO out of 10.

While there have been reports of the gender gap in tech jobs narrowing in advanced economies, at senior levels in the financial industry, this is not quite the case (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Regional disparities in representation of women in senior tech roles

Share of women in tech roles by region, %

Source: OMFIF analysis

One third of all tech roles in the index are in European institutions, and 40% of those are held by women. Within central banks in the region, women occupy 57% of all senior tech positions. In commercial banks, out of the four that have such roles, only two – Spain’s CaixaBank and Sweden’s Handelsbanken – have women in those positions. Additionally, only one of the sovereign funds has a female CTO: Brigitte Byrne at Norges Bank Investment Management.

In Asia Pacific, 12% of the roles are held by women, making it the only region where this figure is below 20%. This share is entirely made up of women in tech or payments roles in central banks. On the other side of the spectrum, despite a low overall number of tech roles, Latin America and the Caribbean has the highest share of women in tech roles at 43%. These roles are mainly at central banks and commercial banks. – Marisa Reghini Ferreira Mattos, chief technology and business development officer at Banco do Brasil.

Despite the regional variations, the aggregate figures echo the message throughout the GBI report: there are not enough women in senior tech positions across financial institutions. As with other roles, there needs to be a change in culture and mindsets that goes beyond policy to substantively move the needle on gender balance in these roles.

Arunima Sharan is Senior Economist, Economic and Monetary Policy Institute, and Katerina Liu is Research Analyst, Digital Monetary Institute, OMFIF.

Download the OMFIF Gender Balance Index 2024 here.

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