Just 19% of the UK’s financial services contractors are women, new figures from the international professional services consultancy Procorre reveal. The average for Western Europe is 23%.

The UK performs less favourably on this measure than struggling European economies such as Spain and Italy, where the figures stand at 33% and 25% respectively.

Procorre’s relationship manager, Lisa Mangan, observed that contracting is becoming the “career of choice for many professionals throughout Europe”, offering high salaries, improved work-life balances and greater flexibility. Given the benefits, she continued, women should find the prospect of consultancy as desirable as men; however, they may be put off pursuing these “very lucrative roles” by some perceived practical barriers.

Ms Mangan singled out the perception that “the old boys’ network still dominates” in the industry. She explained: “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.”

Many women may also be deterred by the effects of maternity leave. Although contractors may claim maternity allowance instead of statutory maternity pay (SMP), this still represents a substantial drop in income, and many financial services employers offer their permanent employees generous remuneration in addition to SMP during maternity leave.

Ms Mangan concluded: “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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