Women at work
Both Spain (33%) and Italy (25%) have higher proportions of female contractors than the UK Reuters

The UK financial services sector is facing a gender diversity gap as only one in five contractors in the industry are women, according to professional services consultancy Procorre.

The firm, which analysed data from the official research body of the European Commission Eurostat, found just 19% of UK contractors in the sector are women.

The number is below the Western European average, where women make up almost a quarter (23%) of contractors in the financial services sector.

Both Spain (33%) and Italy (25%) have higher proportions of female contractors than the UK.

"Contracting is becoming the career of choice for many professionals throughout Europe, as it offers an attractive combination of high salaries, greater flexibility and improved work-life balance," said Lisa Mangan, relationship manager at Procorre.

"Given the benefits, consultancy should be as desirable for women as it is for men.

"However, in the UK financial services sector, there are some perceived practical barriers that may put women off from these very lucrative roles."

Procorre said some women may be worried by the prospect of going it alone in an industry where there is still a perception "that the old boys' network still dominates".

Procorre explained that a drop in income during maternity leave may also cause women to consider their options before working as a contractor.

The findings come after the Chartered Management Institute and salary experts XpertHR warned that there is a "midlife pay crisis" hitting female managers in the UK.

The organisations, which analysed the National Management Salary Survey (covering more than 68,000 professional UK workers), found women aged 40 and over earn 35% less than their male counterparts.

The research also revealed that to earn the same as a male manager over a career, a woman would have to work the equivalent of over 14 years more.

That means – based on a pension age of 65 – a female manager would have to work until they are nearly 80 to catch up.