One Bank Closing the Pay Gap (And Why Is This So Rare?): UBS' investment banking arm is freezing employee pay pending a compensation review, in which it is comparing wages of its male and female employees. It is instructing managers to address any pay gaps it discovers. The goal is to curb the loss of female talent, a problem that is getting more emphasis among its Wall Street peers as well. UBS also is looking to hire more women, according to unnamed sources (women currently comprise 38% of its employees, its website says). Three of the five largest gender pay gaps in the U.S. happen in financial services jobs: financial managers, securities brokers and personal finance advisers, according to the U.S. Census. In the U.K., women in financial services earn about 55% less annually than their male counterparts, versus a 28% pay gap across all industries. In January, Sergio Ermotti, the CEO of UBS, said that women were "becoming more and more important as part of our management team." It's a nice change to see words like this backed up by real action, isn't it?

Women in Islamic Finance: Though the booming sector of Islamic finance traditionally has been dominated by men, women are in leadership roles in at least one country — Malaysia. "In fact, unlike other jurisdictions, or even some Western economies for that matter, the ubiquity of women in high-profile leadership roles in Malaysia is such that it is not even considered a rarity or novelty," says Fozia Amanulla, CEO of the Alliance Islamic Bank. What is so different about Malaysia that enables women to step up this way? Aida Othman, an Islamic finance lawyer, credits the education system, calling it the key to women's empowerment. Malaysia has the world's first university dedicated to the study of Islamic finance and there is a scholarship program for female students. Now banks across the Gulf countries are looking to Malaysia as an example and trying to attract more female staff. "We are seeing a lot of initiatives to get female customers in, as well as on the employment side, and the two are driving each other," says Ashruff Jamall, global Islamic finance leader at PwC Middle East. Islamic finance allows Muslims to invest in accordance with their religion. Over the past decade, sharia-compliant assets worldwide have grown at double-digit rates annually, from about $200 billion in 2003 to an estimated $2 trillion today, according to the IMF and World Bank.

On the Lack of Females at the Fed: The person at the head of the Federal Reserve is Janet Yellen, but nearly all of its other leadership roles are held by … white men. A report by the Center for Popular Democracy's Fed Up campaign points out that only two of the 12 Fed presidents and two of the five governors are women. The Fed has responded to the organization, which is putting pressure on the central bank over its lack of diversity on regional bank boards. Female representation on boards has risen from 23% in 2010 to 30% today, a Fed spokesman said, and 46% of regional directors now are either a woman or a member of a racial minority.

Adjusting in Japan: The president of Nomura Trust and Banking Co., Chie Toriumi, entered the workforce just as Japan's equal employment opportunity law took effect in 1986. Now Toriumi is among a small number of Japanese women who are in executive positions at major companies (women account for 9.2% of all managers in Japan's private sector). "I did not feel there was a glass ceiling," Toriumi says. "But I cannot deny that I have survived by adjusting to a male-dominated society."

Powering Down: The embattled Lynn Tilton is stepping down as collateral manager of all her credit funds. She will retain her position as the CEO of the private equity firm Patriarch Partners, in which the funds she managed, which total more than $2 billion, are invested heavily. Tilton was sued in October for allegedly defrauding investors in the funds. Patriarch collected $200 million in management fees it shouldn't have, according to a similar case brought by the SEC last summer.

Role Call

Comerica recently promoted Debra Van Hevele to southwest Michigan regional manager. Hevele, who is based in Grand Rapids, began her career at the bank 28 years ago, as a part-time teller in high school. This profile touches on how she helped create a networking group for local female leaders and why she thinks mentoring is important. She also notes that, to her, mentoring is more about helping people grow than merely being a cheerleader. "I enjoy it," she says of mentoring, "but I also want to make sure I'm adding value. So I want to challenge myself to dig in deep, push them outside of their comfort zone and push them to be stronger."

Pioneer Bank in Dripping Springs, Texas, has promoted Elizabeth Blose to chief financial officer. Her predecessor, Gary Cooper, plans to retire but will stay on for the time being to assist with Pioneer's pending merger with First Community Bank in Sugar Land. Blose will remain CFO at the combined company, which will retain the Pioneer name and move its headquarters to nearby Austin.

BSJ Bancshares in St. Joseph, La., has named Rebecca Vizard chairman. Vizard succeeds William Watson in that role. BSJ is the holding company for Cross Keys Bank.

In Case You Missed It

Would You Go to the Strip Club with the Boys?: Two women at Australia's ANZ Bank are far from the first female employees to feel it's better to shut up and play along rather than stand up to sexism.

Another Option: But as this article points out, an increasing number of women are choosing to quit instead. (Will this pressure companies to change? I propose asking UBS.)

A Woman's Point of View: The ANZ scandal is inspiring a lot of soul-searching. One woman who works in investment banking in London says, when she started her career 10 years ago, she was too young and inexperienced to realize how rampant the sexism in the industry is. Now that she's older and wiser she thinks the only solution is quotas.

Beyond Banking

Government Pressure: Legislation introduced this week by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., calls for public companies to report to the Securities and Exchange Commission the breakdown of men and women serving on their boards, and for the SEC to disclose that data in an annual update. It also would require companies to disclose information about their recruitment strategies for getting more women into management and onto boards. Sweden, France and the U.K. have introduced quotas to accelerate board diversity, but the U.S. has so far resisted such regulatory nudges.

More Women, More Money: There is some new research that further bolsters the argument that having women in some portion of leadership roles has a positive impact on the bottom line. Having women on the board of directors also corresponds positively with higher earnings, but quotas apparently aren't the way to get there. This research found "no evidence that board quotas have any significant impact, positive or negative, on company performance." Nor does having a female CEO have any bearing on a company's earnings. The upshot is that companies should work on fostering a pipeline of female talent and look to have several female leaders across the C-suite — which amplifies the positive impact on earnings. This research, which included about 22,000 companies in 91 countries, shows that, among profitable companies, net profit margins were 15% higher for those where women make up at least 30% of leadership roles; among unprofitable companies, the positive effect was even more pronounced. "We haven't found the point of diminishing returns yet because we just don't have any firms where there are lots of women," says Marcus Noland, executive vice president and director of studies at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, which did the research with EY.

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