Inquiry into Sex Discrimination in the Finance Sector

When the Equal Pay Act was introduced 40 years ago it heralded a new era in equality. However, four decades on, a gender pay gap still persists across the economy. In few industries are the inequalities as stark as that of the Finance Sector. Despite women and men making up equal proportions of the finance workforce, women earn significantly less on average than their male colleagues.

The Commission has unique powers to investigate inequality within organisations and has used these powers to look at the extent of the gender pay gap within the Finance Sector, the causes and potential solutions.

We initiated an Inquiry into sex discrimination and unequal pay in the financial services sector in 2009. Our findings about the marked and persistent sex discrimination, which permeates the industry, are set out in our Inquiry and research reports.


Find out more about the background to the inquiry, including the purpose of the inquiry, the terms of reference, evidence gathering and results of the Phase 1 research.

Inquiry report

Download Financial Services Inquiry report (PDF).

The first part of our Inquiry revealed that women in the finance sector working full-time earned up to 55 per cent less annual average gross salary than their male colleagues. This compared to the economy-wide gender pay gap of 28 per cent.

The next phase has taken a detailed look into the pay, policies and practices of 44 organisations employing the equivalent to 22.6 per cent of the workforce in the sector. This has revealed that bonuses are a significant factor behind the gender pay gap within the organisations with men receiving five times the performance pay of women, an average of £14,554 in annual performance related pay compared to the female average of £2,875 (based on full-time equivalent earnings).

Significantly, our Inquiry found that no improvements appear to have been made. Responses to our questionnaire showed that women in new jobs were still on average receiving lower salaries than men. The high proportion of workers in the 25-39 age group - the age at which employees tend to have children - also makes it harder for women to have a viable career in the sector that balances family life.

The report highlights how a lack of transparency over pay and working conditions, direct discrimination, long working hours and the difficulties faced by those with caring responsibilities all contribute towards the significant difference between what men and women earn.

There were examples of good practice in some of the organisations, among them one employer reported that they made data on average bonus payments by gender available to employees.


The inquiry has delivered a number of key recommendations. These include to:

  1. Appoint a board member to set the tone, mainstream the issues and drive change.
  2. Implement a staff training and communications programme on gender equality and diversity and on equal pay to influence the understanding and behaviours of decision-makers within the organisation.
  3. Incorporate equality and diversity into organisational and individual objectives.
  4. Develop and carry out non-discriminatory job descriptions and analytical job evaluations that are flexible enough to meet the business’ needs but that set a clear framework for recruitment, promotion, pay and reward structure.
  5. Undertake annual equal pay audits and publish the data.
  6. Make sure maternity, paternity and parental support schemes are in place and are effective.
  7. Monitor the implementation and effect of policy on gender equality

Follow up report

Our follow-up report set outs our conclusions about the steps finance sector companies need to take to tackle gender inequality and the pay gap. In this short concluding report we concentrate on three key themes:

  • transparency of reward,
  • the management of gender inequalities, and
  • effective engagement with employees who are also parents.

Download the Financial Services Inquiry: Follow-up report

The report's recommendations are being put forward on the basis not only that their adoption across the sector will reduce gender inequalities, but that they will also make a positive contribution to the running of the business.

Related publications

Equal Pay: Statutory Code of Practice

Research report 17: Employment and earnings in the finance sector

Last Updated: 19 Aug 2015