SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Most women working in the financial sector feel overlooked, underpaid and under-represented at executive level -- even if they have chosen not to have children for their career, according to an Australian survey.
The survey of 817 male and women finance industry professionals, by the Financial Services Institute of Australia, found 85 percent of women believed there was a gender divide within financial services.
A total of 84 percent of women finance professionals agreed that "even women who chose not to have children were underutilized in the senior ranks."
Their male colleagues, however, had a different view.
The survey found 58 percent of men did not think there was a gender divide within financial services and only 28 percent said women who chose a career over children were underutilized.
But more than half of the men questioned agreed with the majority of women that most females who took time out of the workforce due to caring responsibilities were forced to trade promotion for flexibility.
Institute chief Martin Fahy said the survey findings reflected that while measures such as child care support and flexible work options would help lift the levels of female participation in the industry, "cultural barriers go to the heart of the gender divide."
"Considering women make up over half of Australia's population and legislation has supported equal rights for many years now, the only way to explain the lack of women occupying leadership roles is a common bias at executive management level toward men," Fahy said in a statement.
"This reflects either a significant perception gap or just plain old complacency, with little desire to enforce gender equality both in principle and practice."
Writing by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Michael Perry