London's finance firms hiring more female, overseas staff

LONDON (Reuters) - London's financial services industry is leaving its "old boy's club" image behind, after sharply increasing recruitment of women and overseas staff over the last year, research showed on Monday.

Over the past year the number of women working in London's the City and Canary Wharf financial districts shot up by nearly a half to 29 percent of the total workforce of nearly 520,000, according to financial services recruitment firm Astbury Marsden.

Chinese workers now account for 5 per cent of City staff, compared to 3.8 per cent last year, while 12 per cent are Indian, 1 percentage point higher year on year. That compares to just 0.7 per cent of the wider population that are ethnically Chinese and 2.5 per cent that are Indian.

The increase has been partly driven by the growing importance of Chinese and Indian firms and London's attempts to become a regional hub for those companies, Astbury Marsden said.

"Clearly the composition of the City's workforce is changing rapidly as it hires more and more of the output of the best international business schools and universities, and leaves its image as an old boy's club further and further behind," said Astbury Marsden Director Adam Jackson.

Many companies see that there is value in having a diverse workforce: varied backgrounds and experience can encourage people to think differently and help organisations to compete while recruiting from wider groups broadens the talent pool.

Astbury Marsden said that there is some evidence to show companies' efforts to promote diversity are bearing fruit, particularly programmes to attract and retain female workers.

While women are over-represented in back-office functions, such as administrative and support roles, there has been a 15 per cent rise in the proportion of female staff at analyst and associate level, with women now making up 40 per cent of workers in these roles, Astbury Marsden said.

Progress has also been made to boost the ethnic and religious diversity of the London's financial sector. Almost 70 per cent of City workers are white compared to 86 per cent of the UK's overall population, while 9 percent are Hindu versus 5 per cent in London as a whole, the figures showed.

The figures did not include numbers on staff with disabilities, a minority population which advocates say is often overlooked by corporate diversity schemes.

The Astbury Marsden survey was carried out in August and September. More than 1,000 workers replied to the survey.