In a report on diversity in the banking profession, the EBA said that diversity varies significantly between EU countries, but gender diversity is lacking across the board.
Representation of women at management level is still "very low", it said, with just 13.6% of management and 18.9% of supervisory roles respectively filled by women.
Under EU legislation all credit institutions and investment firms are required to put a policy in place to promote diversity in management, but only 35% of those companies have already done so and only two thirds promote gender diversity, the EBA said.
The EBA also looked at diversity in terms of age, educational and professional background, and geographical provenance. Diversity of age was only of concern in a "limited number" of institutions, while geographical provenance was an issue only for some large international banks.
Diversity in education and professional background was found to be well developed in many institutions.
The report is based on data from 873 institutions from 29 EU and European Economic Area countries, covers credit institutions of different sizes as well as investment firms, and represents 14.3% of the 6,103 institutions in those countries, the EBA said.
Employment law expert Linda Jones of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com said: "Since January 2014, EU financial institutions have been obliged under CRD IV to have diversity targets for their boards and to publish both the targets and policies for achieving them. However, these rules are buried deep in the small print of CRD IV and have had very little profile, so it’s not surprising that the EBA’s report has found that women are still under represented at senior levels in the banking sector. In the UK, a recent report by Jayne-Anne Gadhia highlighted the fact that women make up only 14% of executive committee memberships in the financial services sector."
"This week, the UK government announced that 72 firms have now signed up to the government-backed Women in Finance Charter, which came out of the Gadhia review and which commits financial sector employers to linking bonus pay to meeting gender targets," Jones said.
The UK Treasury announced the charter in March. The signatories have agreed that bonuses paid to senior executives will be linked to their firms' performance against internal targets to improve gender diversity among senior staff.
"The signatories will no doubt also be mindful of the UK legislation on gender pay gap reporting, which comes into effect next year and which will require large employers to publish details showing the gap in pay between male and female employees, including in relation to bonuses and the proportion of men and women they have in each pay quartile," Jones said. "Clearly, unless the number of women in senior positions improves, financial services sector employers will have the potential embarrassment of publishing data that shows a significant pay gap between the genders."
"It may be that a number of factors are now coming together to put gender parity at the top of strategic priorities in a way that hasn’t happened until now. However, even if financial institutions are now willing to prioritise this issue, the culture change needed to make it happen will not take place overnight, so it may be a number of years before any significant progress is made," Jones said.
"Aspirations for greater diversity at a senior level in the business world, and the expected benefits from achieving that, of course apply across all sectors and not only to financial services. Just before the EBA published its report, a review led by Sir Philip Hampton and Dame Helen Alexander announced a new target of 33% women boards across the whole FTSE 350 by 2020, supported by a better 'pipeline' for the development of female business leaders," she said.
The FTSE 350 initiative has been supported by the UK government, the Investment Association and the Equality and Human Rights Commission.