For the first time in its history there are more women applying for professional and financial services jobs than men, according to Randstad Financial & Professional.

The specialist accountancy and financial services recruiter established in 1982 says during 2013, 51% of the candidates registering with them have been women – the first time women outnumbered men. Between 1st January to 31st December 1209 women registered as candidates with the recruiter – compared to only 1177 men. From January 2011 to December 2012, only 47% of the 5,734 candidates who registered with Randstad Financial & Professional were women .

The news follows the announcement by Lloyds Banking Group that it aims to ensure 40 per cent of the businesses 5,000 senior staff are female within the next six years – and comes a week after the government was criticised for fielding an all-male front bench at PMQs.

Randstad says the increase has been driven by an increase in supply of well-qualified female talent and the cumulative effect of professional and financial services firms’ diversity programmes on their attractiveness as a sector.

The latest admission statistics from the Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) show that of the 580,000 people that applied for places at British institutions, 333,700 of them were women. Only 246,300 men applied- a difference of 87,000 .

There’s a similar story at Britain’s top educational institutions from which the City and professional services firms often hire. The University of Oxford, for instance, is now educating over 10,000 women a year, 6% more than it was in 2009 .

The trend extends to subjects that these employers usually look for from graduates. 42% of students reading for a degree in maths are now women. Since the Eighties the proportion of girls in chemistry at A-level has risen steadily, to the extent that the ratio of girls to boys is now roughly equal. And there were 5,900 female students studying MPLS (Maths, Physical and Life Science) subjects at Oxford in 2013, compared to 5,000 in 2009 .

Tara Ricks, managing director of Randstad Financial & Professional, said: “The size of the female talent pool has increased to the extent that, at the application stage at least, women now outnumber men. That’s because there are more women studying at top universities than there used to be; more women studying maths, chemistry, physics and economics than there used to be; and more women want to work in professional and financial services than ever, thanks to their flexible employment policies. Over the last ten years, there has been a lot of work done to help organisations understand the links between having a diverse organisation, an inclusive work environment and strong business performance. The training programmes and toolkits are well documented and there isn’t an employer in the Square Mile who would suggest diversity isn’t at the top of their agenda. That’s paying dividends.”

Professional services is also becoming increasingly diverse as new hires bleed into the system and gender diversity programmes make their mark on traditionally male dominated industries. There are now more full time female legal professionals than men – 58,000 of the country’s 113,000 legal professionals are female .

Women now make up 44 per cent of full time accountants in the UK – of the 73,000 chartered accountants employed full-time in the UK 32,000 are female. In 2012, when Randstad Financial & Professional last looked at the issue they found that women made up 43 per cent.

Securing jobs

The research suggests that more rigorous interview processes put in place by City firms in the wake of the recession have meant female candidates are also more likely to be offered job offers than they were pre-Credit Crunch.

Randstad Financial & Professional analysed approximately 1,250 job offers across professional services, finance & risk, banking operations, compliance and investment management positions. Between May 2007 and May 2008 when the recruitment process typically took just three weeks, men received 55% of all job offers compared to 45% for women.

Fast forward five years and women were receiving 48% of all financial services job offers – with men receiving 52%.  Institutions hiring fewer people were subjecting them to a more rigorous multi-stage interview process – which jumped to over 6 weeks.

Tara Ricks said: “With so many candidates competing for every job and the need to justify every single hire, employers made the hiring process ever more intense with longer interviews involving more managers and multiple assessment stages. Financial & professional services firms have always been incredibly selective but in the depths of the recession only ‘exact match’ candidates could expect to tick all the boxes on each job spec and receive that job offer. Skills were all that mattered and this helped weed out passive gender prejudices. The danger is that, as the jobs market hots up and the interview process needs to truncate employers will fall back into bad habits.”

Guiding each other up the ladder

Randstad also said that once women were in organisations they were also better at guiding other women up the ladder.  At a panel event of high-powered women – including the Williams F1 Team Development Driver, Susie Wolff – hosted by Randstad Financial & Professional in 2013, 58 per cent said women at the top of their profession said women were good at guiding other women up the ladder.

Tara Ricks, managing director of Randstad Financial & Professional, also on the panel said, “I have never been a big believer in the glass stiletto stereotype – where a female leader who has made it, is unsupportive to those on their way up. Women at the top are doing a very good job at helping others.”


When Randstad Financial & Professional asked women if mandatory quotas were the solution to greater female participation in the most senior echelons of the City and professional services, 94 per cent of the participants said that they were not.

Tara Ricks said, “Everyone should be hired and promoted on the basis of skill, not gender. Many people believe that quotas could become a necessary evil as other measures fail to even the playing field. But the view I hear echoed by many women in financial services, accountancy and law is that they would prefer to get there on their own merit – and they are.”