These are the people whom banks really wanted to apply to their graduate programmes this year, but actually didn’t

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Investment banks and financial services firms get a lot of people applying for places on their graduate programmes. Research firm High Fliers puts the ratio of applications to places at 104:1. 

However, while applications as a whole are clearly not lacking, one cohort of students is failing to apply to investment banks in sufficient numbers, and this is creating problems.

That cohort is: women.

Banks aren’t keen to go on the record about their problems attracting female graduates. Off the record, however, they are very clear about the issue.

“About 20% of our graduate applicants are women,” says the head of recruitment at one international bank inLondon.

“Ever since 2007-2008 women have been a lot more risk averse,” agrees the head of graduate recruitment at a European bank. “The proportion of women applying to us isn’t great.”

Does this mean banks are operating a form of positive discrimination and proactively hiring female graduates who put themselves forward? They would argue not, but agree that the shortage of woman is something they’re ‘conscious’ of.

“What we’re really looking at is what makes women fall out during the screening process,” says the head of recruitment at the international bank. “What kinds of unconscious bias are preventing people from making it through?”

“Women still need to be good to get through the recruitment process, but they are definitely more sought after and have more opportunity to do the whole networking thing,” says the head of graduate recruitment.

Both say women are more likely to apply for roles in sales and trading than in corporate finance/M&A. “Women also apply to the middle and back office, but not to IT,” says the head of graduate recruitment.

“Women who speak multiple languages and have good technical skills will be in a strong position,” says the other recruiter: “There is a shortage of good women [applicants at graduate level].”

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