Financial Women Really Paid Less? Data Are Scarce

Article excerpt

Two surveys confirm it: An overwhelming percentage of women in the financial services business believe men get paid more for doing the same job.

But industry insiders and analysts say there is no hard evidence they are right.

"The problem is not a blatant one," said Joan Shapiro Green, president-elect of the New York-based Financial Women's Association, which has more than 1,100 members. "It's very subtle. People promote and hire people they feel comfortable around."

There is no doubt that the belief is widespread. In a membership survey conducted by the group, 70% of the respondents said women earn "somewhat less" or "much less" than men in base salary. A whopping 83% said women make "somewhat less" or "much less" in performance/incentive bonuses.

Twenty percent said the situation had improved in the past three years, but 56% said it would not be fully resolved for another decade.

The survey was conducted late last year and released in March. About a quarter of the respondents were chief executive officers, presidents, executive or senior vice presidents, or managing directors.

Betsy Werley, the group's current president and a vice president of corporate business services at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., agrees that women are paid less -- and that the proof is hard to find. "Women look at the environments in which they're working, and they see sexism," she said. "They assume that it carries over to compensation."

Her group's survey mirrors a more extensive study by Catalyst Inc., a New York nonprofit research and advisory organization that works to advance professional women.

Under a 1999 settlement reached in a class action that claimed Smith Barney had discriminated against female employees, Catalyst surveyed 482 women and 356 men at seven leading securities firms. It also conducted nine focus groups of men and women in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco. The results were released last July.

Unsurprisingly, Catalyst found that men and women perceive their office environments differently.

For instance, 65% of the female respondents said women must work harder to get the same rewards as men, but only 13% of men agreed.

Just over half the women surveyed said the financial services industry pays women less than men for similar work. Only 8% of the men agreed.

Lack of mentoring opportunities was the leading barrier to women's advancement, the women said. Next, they said, were commitment to personal and family responsibilities and exclusion from informal communication networks.

Only 11.3% of the corporate officers in the securities industry are women, compared with 12.5% in all industries, according to Catalyst.

Many women in the industry have focused on "Women in Management," a report released in October by the General Accounting Office that looked at female managers in 10 industries, including finance, insurance, and real estate.

Analyzing Labor Department data, the GAO found that for every dollar men in finance, insurance, and real estate got in 2000, women in comparable positions got 68 cents. Things had gone downhill for the women since 1995, when they got 76 cents to the dollar.

But that was for the finance, insurance, and real estate industries, lumped together. Were things really getting worse for women in financial services?

The opposite view is widely held. Things have gotten better in the past few years and will continue to do so, many respondents to the surveys by the Financial Women's Association and by Catalyst said. …