Banking on Women: Selection Practices in the Finance Sector

Publication Date01 May 1987
AuthorDavid L. Collinson
SubjectHR & organizational behaviour
Banking on Women: Selection
Practices in the Finance Sector
by David L. Collinson, Department of Management Sciences, UMIST
This article reports on research designed to explore
recruitment, training and promotion practices in the banking
and finance industry. In recent years, the initiatives of the
major banks in the area of equal opportunities have received
substantial publicity. Recruitment patterns are now
monitored, career break schemes have been introduced, equal
opportunity training has been undertaken, policy guidelines
have been specified and circulated, and managers with
specific responsibility for equal opportunities have been
appointed. The research
suggest, however, that deep-
seated and self-fulfilling vicious circles of
inherited from a paternalistic past, can still characterise the
industry's selection practices.
The first half of the article uses case-study and statistical
data to exemplify how women's opportunities may be
curtailed in practice, while the second half examines briefly
the major banks' policy changes, and questions whether
these are sufficient to overcome the historical and
contemporary barriers facing the majority of women in the
banking sector.
Background to the Research
Since the Second World War, banking has undergone rapid
social and technological upheaval. Dramatic increases in
personal customers and the services offered to them have
stimulated a sharp rise in banking recruitment and
employment. In 1948, the London Clearing Banks employed
84,869 people (71.9 per cent male), but, by 1970, this had
risen to
During this period, women's employment
expanded by 270 per cent, in contrast to men's which rose
by only 40 per cent[1]. By 1980, women comprised 60 per
cent of the labour force in the English Clearing Banks[2].
Although the industry is now a major employer of female
labour, men's traditional domination of power and status
has persisted, because all too familiar processes of job
segregation have operated to incorporate and maintain
women in lower clerical
engineer, security and managerial positions remain largely
sex-typed for men, while
secretaries and part-time jobs
continue to be the preserve of women.
The mainstream banking career path is broadly similar
for all the banks, as follows:
G1 consists of batch/remittance routine office
work, debit, credit clearing,
standing orders, stock payments,
computer terminals.
G2 consists of
G3/4 consists of
"Appointed" range
consists of A1-A4
"Board Appointments"
cashier/counter work.
specialised functions, e.g.
securities, foreign transactions,
life policies.
special technical work,
accountants, senior clerk, senior
securities clerk, chief cashier,
trainee/junior management.
executive head office
managerial, sub-managerial
Women's exclusion from banking careers is illustrated by the
work-force profile of the major banks. At Midland, 56 per
cent of staff are female. They make up 60 per cent of the
clerical grades, but only 16 per cent of appointed staff and
1.8 per cent of group managers[3]. In 1986, at National
Westminster, four per cent of women employees were in
administrative or managerial posts, contrasted with 44 per
cent of men[4]. Of the 3,100 managers at Lloyds, only 43
are women[4]. A similar analysis at Barclays revealed that,
within the first five years of service, 30 per cent of men,
compared with ten per cent of women, had reached grade
three or above. Among staff with
to 15 years of service,
44 per cent of men were in the most senior clerical grade
and another 29 per cent had advanced further. For women,
the same figures were nine per cent and 0.2 per cent
respectively. This profile also excluded 4,800 typists and
part-time women clerical workers, who did not have formal
access to the mainstream career structure.
Job segregation in banking persists despite a public
commitment to equal opportunities from the independent
finance union BIFU. With a National Equality Committee
and sub-committees in all the banks, BIFU has produced
valuable proposals for positive action. Yet, the union has
been unable to translate policy into practice so as to eradicate
job segregation. This is partly because of its minority
representation, of only one-third of staff in the four main
clearing banks. In the Midland, ASTMS also negotiates with
management, while Barclays, National Westminster and
Lloyds all have active and long-established staff associations
which, together, form the Clearing Banks Union (CBU).
Such limited and divided staff representation helps to explain
why BIFU has been unable to challenge the prerogative of
management over recruitment and promotion practices in
order to secure more open and meritocratic personnel
practices. Indeed, it is precisely this question of managerial
12 PR 16,5 1987

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