Morality matters German women don't want to work in finance

Germany’s finance industry lags behind the US’ in female leadership. Women in both countries are turned off by glass ceilings and the sector's immoral reputation, according to research.
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Finance has traditionally been a man’s world. Despite a recent push for gender equality, not much has changed. Women who enter the industry still face many obstacles, including unequal pay and an alpha male workplace culture.

So it may come as no surprise that women are reluctant to start working in money management. German researchers at the University of Mannheim have determined a number of underlying reasons why, including moral conscience.

Of around 1,200 female and male economics students at three German universities polled, many females identified the industry as a ruthless shark tank, with jobs that were incompatible with their personal moral code and integrity.

According to the study, which Handelsblatt received an advance copy of, most of all students reckoned the industry’s job prospects as being not family-friendly enough and too male-dominated. No wonder German industry leaders are looking for female managers to fulfill gender equality, but are struggling to find them.

23 p30 Percentages of female execs experts in finance sectors-01

There are many women who have shattered glass ceilings in finance, including Federal Reserve head Janet Yellen, Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman and JPMorgan Chase CFO Marianne Lake. But these women are still exceptions with only one in 10 American fund managers being female.

In Germany, that proportion is even lower. Of all board members of the 100 largest German banks, fewer than 9 percent are women, according to the German Institute for Economic Research.

At the European Central Bank, the only woman on the board of directors is Germany’s Sabine Lautenschläger. Many European Union politicians are decrying this old boys club as no longer acceptable, in a bloc that counts female heads of government in Germany, Britain, Estonia, Malta, Lithuania and Croatia.

Overall the finance sector had a poor image among the polled students, who placed it second-last in a list of 13 industries in terms of reputation. That's a byproduct of the 2008 finance crisis, said the study’s author Alexandra Niessen-Ruenzi. Ironically, male students still ranked finance among the three most attractive industries to work in though. In contrast, women said they would rather opt for jobs in marketing or human resources.

According to economist Ms. Niessen-Ruenzi, classrooms need to focus on changing workplace structures to emphasize gender equality but also the importance of moral standards in the industry. “Finance should not only be defined by money manipulation and risk management, but rather fiduciary management of corporate assets,” she told Handelsblatt.

Anke Rezmer covers investment funds and Frank Wiebe covers monetary policy, both in Frankfurt. Stephanie Ott is an editor for Handelsblatt Global, based in New York. To contact the authors: [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected].