Challenge – elevating roleof women in the workplace

MANY women receive unequal treatment when applying for finance, says Challenge Bank head of marketing Melissa Reynolds.

The bank has recently completed Australia-wide research which largely investigates the role of women in financial decision-making, the role that they play when they start up their own business and the equality of treatment when applying for finance.

“I was really quite astounded by the results,” she said.

“When it comes to applying for finance, interacting with solicitors, accountants, lawyers and so forth, generally they don’t know what a woman wants in terms of respect and confidence.

“To give an example, a lady was buying a home loan and while her husband is on a good income, she is the primary income earner.

“She had been leading the discussions with the solicitor and when it came to the loan documentation, they put his name first. This may seem a small matter but it reflects deep-seated attitudes.

“Often, when a couple are applying for finance, the bank will direct the conversation to the man. People understate the true role women play in financial decision-making.

“And there’s still so much work to do in terms of elevating the role of women in the workplace.”

Ms Reynolds said the research indicated gender inequality in financial lending was worse in WA than in any other state.

The bad attitude was even more absurd considering the indications that women tend to be better borrowers, better with repayments, better savers, were more risk averse and research a financial decision more thoroughly than men.

She said the balance between parenting and work need not be as demanding as it is currently.

“I think we need to become more mature about the way we view our working hours,” she said.

“Companies need to instil flexible working hours, job-sharing and work from home arrangements. Many men are starting to do this to become more involved in their children’s lives and this is a great thing.

“It doesn’t need to be a choice between work on one hand and a family life on the other. It just means a shift in attitude from being input driven to output focused.”

Ms Reynolds says Challenge Bank has embarked on a strategic initiative to become ‘the bank of choice for women and the employer of choice’.

“One of the things that we’ve discovered is that women tend to lack confidence – whereas a man would be more likely to say: “Heck, I’ll just take the job”, a woman likes to fully develop those skills before moving to the next step.

“So what we do as managers is actively encourage women to apply for senior positions.

“We have various mentoring programs and a Women In Business unit that specifically looks at our marketing activities for women to ensure we are educating them on how to become financially independent in their life.”

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