May 19, 2020

Advertised salaries fall to 11-month low as economy grows

National Living Wage
John O'Hanlon
8 min
Advertised salaries fall to 11-month low as economy grows

As indicated by official figures released today, Britain's recovery strengthened in the second quarter of 2015. The UK economy expanded by 0.7 percent in the three months to the end of June, following growth of 0.4 percent in the first quarter. Nevertheless advertised jobs have yet to reflect the improved economic prospects, though a tenth of vacancies should benefit from National Living Wage changes

·         Average advertised salary drops to £33,696 in June, down 0.9 percent from £34,002 in May, reaching an 11-month low

·         Number of advertised vacancies hits post-recession high at 1,092,030 in June, up 3.2 percent from May, but growth driven by increase in lower-paid positions

·         But National Living Wage (NLW) set to impact one in 10 new workers across the UK

·         Everyday heroes will benefit most from NLW, as 15,000 new Healthcare & Nursing workers and 9,800 new Education professionals will see advertised salaries rise

·         A fault line is opening in competition for jobs between the North and the South, as top five most difficult places to get a job all in northern England

Advertised salaries have fallen to an 11-month low, as growth in the workforce is driven by lower-paid roles and part-time positions, according to the latest UK Job Market Report from

The average advertised UK salary was £33,696 in June, down 0.9 percent from £34,002 in May, the fourth consecutive month seeing increasingly steep month-on-month falls. Salaries have now reached their lowest point since £33,873 in July 2014.

An increase in lower paid and part-time roles has factored into the advertised salaries stagnation. June saw 1,092,030 available UK vacancies, 3.2 percent higher than the 1,058,425 recorded in May, and 12.8 percent above the 968,273 six months before, in December 2014.

But the National Living Wage initiative will help boost a significant number of these new roles. The initiative would affect more than 112,000 currently advertised vacancies, meaning 10 percent of the vacancies currently on offer will benefit. Some 17 percent of these affected vacancies are in the South East, compared to just 4 percent in the North East.

Competition for jobs has fallen to a new record low. There were just 0.67 jobseekers per advertised vacancy in June, 6.6 percent lower than 0.72 in May, and almost half the 1.21 figure seen in June 2014.

Although the Office for National Statistics has reported that the unemployment rate has risen by 0.1 percent month-on-month, Adzuna’s forward-looking data suggests this is a temporary blip, and that unemployment will fall away again in the summer.

Table 1:


May 2015

June 2015

Monthly Change

Annual change from June 2014

UK Vacancies



+3.2 percent

+30.0 percent

Jobseekers per Vacancy



-6.6 percent

-44.7 percent

Av. Advertised UK Salary



-0.9 percent

+2.3 percent


Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna, comments: “The solid growth in vacancies is the dominant backdrop behind this unemployment uptick. It may even be a sign of greater mobility: as more and more vacancies open up, employees are confident enough to temporarily leave their current job in order to dedicate their efforts to finding a new one. Competition for jobs is continually falling away as the British economy starts to spread its wings again. In that context, this minor fluctuation gives us little cause for concern.

“Likewise, weakening advertised salaries signal an increase in the number of available entry-level, part-time and lower-paid positions. While the National Living Wage should prop up the salaries of those unfairly affected by falling wages, there is definitely still plenty of room for improvement. The new baseline is weighted for London – and that’s the extent of it. As his Northern Powerhouse programme proves, the economic recovery has not been evenly spread across the UK – but neither is all our success concentrated on the capital.

“Moving from the East of England to the North West, for example, will see the spending power of the National Living Wage vastly improve. It’s long past time that some additional complexity was introduced to government wage targets beyond the twin categories of London and ‘everywhere else in Britain’.”

Hardworking Healthcare and Teaching Sectors buoyed by National Living Wage

If the National Living Wage was implemented now, as many as one in seven (14.4 percent) new Healthcare & Nursing professionals would be directly affected, and would see advertised salaries rise. There are currently 66,003 vacancies across the sector, and 15,086 of those are minimum wage positions.  Across the sector as a whole, the average salary stands at £35,682 in June, 1.8 percent lower than £36,352 a year ago.

Teaching & Education jobs are the next largest group of vacancies that would experience the direct impact of the new law, with 9,818 positions currently advertised for below the intended living wage, affecting 14.9 percent of all positions currently advertised.

But it was Logistics & Warehouse positions that saw the greatest proportion of vacancies affected – nearly a fifth (19.5 percent) of the 36,207 available jobs would experience a wage increase.

Table 2: Sectors most affected by the National Living Wage

Job Sector

Total Vacancies

Vacancies Affected by National Living Wage

Proportion affected by National Living Wage

Healthcare & Nursing



14.4 percent

Teaching & Education



14.9 percent




14.1 percent




6.4 percent

Logistics & Warehouse



19.5 percent


Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna, continues: “The Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Tristram Hunt, made a serious gaffe recently in suggesting that doctors need to extend their contracted hours to include weekends – and the backlash from doctors already working round the clock and outside the working week has been viral. Doctors may be the obvious face of the healthcare industry, but we can’t ignore the backbone of nurses and carers that are going to become ever-more important in the face of an ageing population, workers who deserve a pay rise.

“Many of our nation’s care personnel are on zero-hour contracts or are paid minimum wage, and these are the people that the National Living Wage will really assist. However, with employers like IKEA planning to pay above and beyond the new minimum to be introduced from April 2016: perhaps it’s time for some serious thought about NHS salaries – especially at the lower end of the scale.

“But implementation of the new law may not be straightforward. Looking at the proportion of warehouse workers getting a pay increase, begs the question of how large scale companies that rely on the sector, like Amazon, will manage the shift their business practices needed to accommodate the new law.”

Average salary growth in the North triple that of the South

The average salary growth for Yorkshire & the Humber retains its lead position with average advertised salary growth of 7.1 percent. This is 2.3 percentage points above the UK average (4.8 percent).

Looking at the north as a whole by taking an average of Yorkshire & The Humber, North East England (5.7 percent) and the North West (5.0 percent) shows that the average year-on-year salary growth is 5.9 percent, nearly three times higher than the 2.3 percent average of the southern regions of the UK, London (0.9 percent), South East England (1.9 percent), Eastern England (3.0 percent) and South West England (3.0 percent). London had the lowest average annual improvement to advertised salaries in June, while Scotland witnessed a decrease.

Table 3: Biggest improvers – UK regions by average salary


Average Salary

Salary  percent 12 Month Change

Yorkshire and The Humber


+7.1 percent

North East England


+5.7 percent

North West England


+5.0 percent

East Midlands


+4.6 percent

South West England


+3.5 percent

Eastern England


+3.0 percent



+2.3 percent

South East England


+1.9 percent

West Midlands


+1.8 percent

Northern Ireland


+1.2 percent



+1.2 percent



+0.9 percent



-0.9 percent


Andrew Hunter explains: “The north is starting to come into its own. Northern employers are expanding salaries far faster than in the south, to try to attract top talent to their expanding businesses. But these things don’t happen overnight, and there are bound to be some delays and growing pains. Infrastructure and housing have as much a part to play in building the north into a well-oiled economic machine as much as attractive salaries. Looking forward, it won’t be long until more people start to realise that the cost of living is seriously tipped in their favour if they can find the right job in places like Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle.”

Northern fault-line makes it tough to get ahead

Despite salary growth in the north, there is still a clear gap between north and south in terms of competition for jobs. Competition remains stubbornly high in areas like Sunderland, with as many as 4.87 jobseekers per vacancy – over seven times the national average. However, Manchester has cemented its place in the top ten best cities to find a job, with just 0.31 jobseekers per vacancy.

Andrew Hunter concludes: “Manchester is one of the exceptions to the rule, buoyed by a thriving professional services industry which has created many new jobs in areas like law, finance and consulting. Many of our northern cities are making a comeback and competition for jobs is falling fast – albeit not to the same extent that we see in Cambridge.

“The struggle isn’t in pulling these recovering cities up to scratch – it’s working out how to better support those places where businesses are still struggling to flourish and provide opportunities to the local area, cities like Sunderland and Hull. Manchester might be the wunderkind of the Chancellor’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’ scheme, but it’s important not to let one shining example mask a more deeply-rooted problem.”

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Jun 13, 2021

Why we need more female CFOs (and how to reach that goal)

Kate Birch
12 min
Four female global financial experts weigh in on why there are so few female CFOs, and what organisations can do to redress the boardroom gender imbalance

The number of women in CFO positions in Fortune 500 companies reached a record high late last year, hitting 90, up from 65 just a few years ago. It’s not surprising given the increased focus in recent years on C-suite and board parity by investors such as Blackrock, as well as other institutions including the Nasdaq, which recently stated that companies listed on its US exchange will need to have a minimum of two non-white or female Board members. And if they do not, they must publicise the reasons as to why.

The picture is similar in the UK. According to Julia van den Bosch Wazen, CFO Practice consultant at Odgers Berndtson, The Financial Conduct Authority in the UK is now looking to the London Stock Exchange listings framework as to whether similar measures ought to be implemented, while for City firms, “there are already ongoing discussions about potentially using wider FCA powers, such as denying regulatory approves to drive diversity on Boards”.

But while there’s certainly been improvement, the under-representation of women in executive finance positions remains less than rosy, with van den Bosch Wazen admitting that “whilst much has been done, we are still of the view that progress is too slow”.

Still too few women make CFO

According to the government-backed Hampton-Alexander Review, of which Odgers Berndtson are active contributors, while women now make up one third of all board positions in the UK’s FTSE 100 companies, up from 12.5% less than a decade ago, there remains a concerning lack of female representation in senior leadership and key executive roles in FTSE companies, with just 15% of finance directors bring women.

“One of the Big Four partners informed me that their annual graduate intake split is around 52% women, 48% men. By the time this age group reaches their early thirties, the number goes down to 34% women,” explains van den Bosch Wazen. “Since many CFOs of listed businesses in the UK take the audit route, before moving into industry, the disparity of diverse talent coming into the market starts early and is not able to catch up later.”

Recent McKinsey research for its Women in the Workplace report for North America backs this up. While research shows that women and men in financial services begin their careers making up roughly equal portions of entry-level staff, once you get higher up the ladder, women account for only 19% (one in five) of positions in the C-suite.

The research suggests that as women advance through their careers, they steadily lose ground to their male peers at every stage, suggesting the pathway to the CFOs office is not as clearly illuminated for female candidates.

Why women make good CFOs

And yet the evidence suggests that when women do make it to CFO, the payoff for organisations is positive. Companies with female CFOs and CEOs prove more profitable than those led by men, with women-led firms generating US$1.8 trillion more in gross profit than the sector average, according to a report by S&P Global.

Furthermore, as van den Bosch Wazen points out, according to McKinsey’s latest Diversity Wins report, companies with more than 30% of women executives are more likely to outperform companies where this percentage ranged from 10-30%.

“The benefits speak for themselves and I’m thrilled that investors are pushing harder for this,” states van den Bosch Wazen. “The more diverse your management team, the more engaged your workforce, and the better your customers are looked after. You are better informed of the world, you tend not to miss trends, making your balance sheet strong and your organisation run more efficiently.”

Cristina Catania, Partner at McKinsey & Company agrees that gender diversity “enriches decision-making and so has a positive impact on companies’ performance and sustainability”, however more specifically, and in the context of the finance function, she points out that studies have found that “women have higher risk aversion than men and that can be a good thing”.

Maggie Xu, Principal of Greater China Financial Services Practice at Oliver Wyman, agrees suggesting research shows that female CFOs are more risk averse and tend to adopt more conservative accounting policies. And for “those companies/industries with higher litigation risk, default risk, systematic risk, or management turnover risk, who are more focused on accounting conservatism, female CFOs may well do a better job”.

Arguing that women are “equally qualified to effectively address current and future challenges and disruptions”, Hanady Khalife, Senior Director of MEA & India for the Institute of Management Accountants further points out that beyond operations, inclusive working cultures where women leaders exist have been known to attract and retain top talent.

“No matter how you look at it, women leaders are good for business and for building more sustainable, self-sufficient and increasingly shockproof businesses, even economies,” asserts Khalife.

In our roundtable, we talk to these four female financial leaders to identify the barriers facing women and discover how organisations and leaders can facilitate their advancement.

International panel discussing women as CFOs

Julia van den Bosch Wazen
Consultant, Odgers Berndtson’s CFO Practice

Maggie Xu
Principal, Greater China Financial Services Practice, Oliver Wyman

Cristina Catania
Partner, McKinsey & Company

Hanady Khalife
Senior Director, MEA & India Operations, Institute of Management Accountants

Why are women under-represented in senior financial positions, and the CFO role specifically?

Julia van den Bosch Wazen, Consultant, Odgers Berndtson’s CFO Practice: Women in key financial management roles tend to have a shared set of challenges, such as balancing home/work life, which is overcome by having the right support and an engaged sponsor at work. Sponsors are often men in senior management positions. Men are essential in furthering the development of all strands of diversity in the workplace, and the more informed diversity and inclusion allies there are, the better the company performs. COVID has forced the majority of companies to work from home and highlighted to many employers the dual nature of a working woman’s careers. That said, pre-pandemic, many female CFOs said to me that their life was a constant balancing act of whom to disappoint more – their partners, kids, or friends. Senior women rarely disappoint their employers, just like their male peers.

During the executive search processes we run, Boards will actively seek diversity, though in a risk adverse hiring market, like the one that we are in, many end up choosing proven Board experience over and above stepping up talent. It is widely publicised that there are more men in those roles than there are women, and so the balance is again not restored, further facilitating the lack of Board experienced women.

Cristina Catania, Partner, McKinsey & Company Unfortunately, this under-representation of women in senior roles isn’t exclusive to finance – it’s a similar picture in business management and strategy. But, prior to COVID, concentrated efforts were making some gains. Across all industries, we’ve seen women’s representation in the C-suite increase by 24% since 2015, including some notable appointments in the financial sector, like Jane Fraser at Citi. There is, however, a broken rung at the very bottom of the corporate ladder that is stalling progress.

Our annual Women in the Workplace study of women in North America shows that for every 100 men, just 72 women are promoted and hired to manager. Women get stuck at the entry level and fewer become managers. Not surprisingly, men then end up holding 62% of manager-level positions, while women hold just 38%. The number of women decreases at every subsequent level, so despite improved hiring and promotion rates for women at senior levels, they aren’t able to catch up.

Hanady Khalife, Senior Director, MEA & India Operations, Institute of Management Accountants One would assume this is a problem most prevalent in the Middle East but it is global. A National Bureau of Economic Research study from Denmark found that even at the height of their careers, women tend to spend more time raising children, and so work fewer hours, take longer breaks from full-time employment, and are more likely to move into less demanding jobs with lower growth and less pay.

Other reasons include the pay gap, lack of mentorship and coaching, and aggressive competition by male colleagues, as well as lack of female C-suite role models. When women don’t see role models or potential paths towards executive-level leadership, they are more likely to deselect themselves out of such roles.

Maggie Xu, Principal, Greater China Financial Services Practice, Oliver Wyman In research, we identified four critical barriers for women seeking leadership. Firstly, men and women define effective leadership differently, while women leadership candidates tend to be evaluated by men. This misalignment in key leadership traits between the genders creates obstacles to women rising to leadership roles. In China, although significant increase in the ratio of companies with female executives has been observed during the decade, extensive research indicates that the rate for female CEO remains very low, and CEOs are critical in assessing the performance of CFO candidates.

Secondly, women’s focus or predisposition toward results, along with a dislike of ‘networking for networking’s sake,’ may cause them to miss an important dimension of what ultimately impacts leadership promotion decisions. We also discovered that qualified women are unintentionally left on the sidelines, partly because women are simply not top of mind, and so are less likely to self-advocate and must battle inaccurate assumptions related to their willingness to take on more intense roles.

Also, men and women perceive their readiness for the next role very differently, and most companies do not actively mitigate that bias at play. A woman often won’t apply to a job unless she feels she meets 100% of the described qualifications, while for men, it’s more like 60% and as we all know, raising one’s hand does not necessarily equate with capability.

Finally, research shows women are more likely to have ideas mis-attributed to others, be talked over in meetings, receive vague or unconstructive feedback, and be viewed negatively for visibly demonstrating the same confidence that is valued in male leaders. Many high potential women, weary of bias, exit the talent pipeline, either opting out of the workforce or choosing a different career.

How can organisations and leaders motivate, empower and facilitate women in reaching CFO status?

Julia van den Bosch Wazen Mentorship from senior colleagues is vital in helping women to navigate the mid-point of their career. Our philosophy in the CFO Practice facilitates that same ethos: we want to help advise women early on to help build careers toward the three-stage interview process they will face when stepping up to their first Main Board role. A financial management career for a listed CFO role needs to be built to answer the questions a CEO will pose (do you have commercial and operational P&L experience to be my partner in setting strategic goals); the Audit Chair (will you give me comfort in your technical financial management skills to assure that the business will not have to restate its numbers); and the Chair (do you keep my CEO ‘in check’, and will you let my Audit Chair rest easy at night).

There are a number of roles within the finance function I strongly encourage women to take en route to Board, to gather experience against the above criteria. I also urge women to do more external networking. I’ve set up bi-annual women’s networking lunches giving senior female talent the opportunity to hear how experienced finance leaders have successfully developed their careers. These have been well-received and have now broadened out to both our Regional CFO and Financial Services Practices to help deepen the advice shared.

When selecting a headhunting firm, I would urge that you ask what they are doing to support the D&I agenda during the pitch process. Your candidate list might well be diverse, but if you see that those who are looking likely to be shortlisted are all non-diverse, check why, and what can be actioned based on feedback.

Cristina Catania Talent attraction is the first step to sustaining a pipeline to fill CFO roles long term. For finance, there is a need to create multiple role model examples to inspire young women to join this career path, which is increasingly at the centre of key company decision-making. We know from our study that when employees believe that their company offers both fairness and opportunity, they are three times more likely to remain at the company, be fully engaged and recommend the company to a peer. What we know about the experiences of women at entry levels in financial services indicates that a perceived lack of fairness and opportunity could be contributing to the steep drop-off in female representation between entry-level and middle management roles.

Specifically, women early in their careers are less likely to aspire to top positions. This could be due to a lack of female role models, but women also report less interest in executive roles due to concerns about balancing work and family and the perceived pressure that accompanies top jobs. Even when women do aspire to the top positions, they typically do not receive the sponsorship support that would enable them to succeed.

Our 2017 Women in the Workplace research shows that women who receive advice from senior leaders on career advancement are more likely to be promoted, and yet earlier-tenure women receive less encouragement and support from senior leaders than do their male counterparts.

The programmes that are showing impact in creating a sustainable pipeline of women start with the creation of a more ‘inclusive’ workplace, created through HR parental policies (applicable also to fathers, which in turn allows for shared parental responsibilities) and doubling-down on additional welfare services like in-office daycare.

Other measures include removing gender biases in assessing criteria for being eligible for a promotion, flexibility arrangements, leveraging maternity as an upskilling moment, the introduction of sponsorship programmes, and measuring and publishing target setting. And all steps need to be truly sponsored and promoted by the CEO and cascaded throughout the whole organisation.

Hanady Khalife Increasing opportunities for women to advance to leadership roles in the organisation begins with understanding the internal pipeline to identify barriers and obstacles to advancement and in turn, establishing measurable goals for building equity.

Organisations need to develop corporate cultures that support women who wish to achieve a healthy work/life balance, rather than breed cultures that penalises them for attempting to balance priorities. But while firms need to focus on more affirmative action to ensure gender equality, whether through quotas or recruitment programmes, they also need to pay more attention to how women can be mentored better to keep pace with new and emerging industry requirements. 

Maggie Xu Organisations can be more purposeful in levelling the playing field for women, and by changing the emphasis from fixing things bottom up to top-down, effects will take place faster. We believe there are three core elements in this effort: inclusive leadership starts at the top, so educate your existing leadership and motivate them to be change agents; target D&I like a business to get more results; and double down on sponsorship, improving the effectiveness of senior leaders’ sponsorship of the women.

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