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Female executives still sparse at financial firms

Nearly half of almost 120,000 employees at 20 major financial firms in South Korea are women, but only 21 of them were in executive positions as of 2016, according to data cited in news reports Monday.

The data also showed that among the 21, only two of them -- Jung Soo-kyung, an auditor at Woori Bank, and Park Soon-ae, a non-executive director at Kookmin Bank -- were board members. There were 845 executive workers in total for both genders.

None of the 21 women were in positions of vice president or above, according to the Financial Supervisory Service. 

(Herald DB)
(Herald DB)
Among 20 major firms, 11 had not appointed female executives, showed the data, which contained information about the employment at four commercial banks, three life insurance firms, three accident insurance companies, four credit card companies and six securities firms.

No damage insurance company had any women among 176 senior positions, while the four largest lenders in terms of market cap -- Shinhan Bank, Kookmin Bank, KEB Hana Bank and Woori Bank -- had named three female senior level directors in total.

Hyundai Card had the highest number of female senior executives. It had seven women, including Chief Risk Officer Kim Hyun-joo and Managing Director Lee Mi-young, out of its 62 executives. This was followed by Samsung Card and Samsung Life Insurance. Each of them had three women at or above director-level positions out of a total of 32 and 69 executives, respectively.

The data, based on disclosures on a web portal run by the FSS, contrasted to the fact that 56,350, or nearly half of 119,039 employees at the 20 financial firms, were women.

“Despite higher women employment in financial firms than other industries, few of them can see the pipeline, or a career path to the top hierarchy,” Lee Eun-hyung, a business administration professor at Kookmin University, told The Korea Herald. “But the low proportion of women executives is never proof that women lack competence.”

Lee added the government may opt to gradually increase the quota of senior positions for females, and the move could bring change in the male-dominant work culture.

“One of the ways to address the glass ceiling is the government’s swift move toward gender awareness, to the degree that the policy change outpaces the change in the male-dominant workplace environment,” she said. “That may help men get more used to working with women at the top hierarchy.”