Just 1 in 5 (19%) UK contractors in the financial services sector are women, this number is below the Western European average, where women make up a quarter (23%)* of contractors in the financial services sector.
In both Spain (33%) and Italy (25%) have higher proportions of female contractors than the UK. Contracting is becoming the career of choice for many professionals throughout Europe, as it offers an attractive combination of high salaries, greater flexibility and improved work-life balance.
Given the benefits, consultancy should be as desirable for women as it is for men, however in the UK financial services sector there are some perceived practical barriers that may put women off from these very lucrative roles.
For example some women may be worried by the prospect of going it alone in an industry where there's still a perception that the old boy's network still dominates.
A strong network is undoubtedly a vital tool for contractors to help secure work for themselves. Women in the City are very aware of this and in recent years there has been a big drive to create women only networks to exchange advice, support and even potential job opportunities.
A drop in income during maternity leave may also cause women to consider their options before working as a contractor. Contractors are entitled to claim Maternity Allowance in place of getting Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), but for many this still represents a substantial decrease in income. Many financial services employers give a more generous remuneration during maternity leave on top of SMP to try and retain important staff.
The trade-off is the potential to earn more hour for hour and a greater flexibility to work around other commitments such as family. Contractors within financial services often receive very high daily rates of pay, coupled with the flexibility around working hours, life as a contractor can provide the best of both worlds.
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