COMMONLY associated with a male-dominated culture, a recent survey conducted by finance job site eFinanceCareers has revealed otherwise about Singapore's finance sector.

Conducted between July and August 2014 on about 5,000 global respondents (polling a total of 1,244 finance professionals living and working in Singapore), the diversity and discrimination survey revealed that Singapore's financial services sector has the most female-friendly place to work in.

Singapore respondents, with 87 per cent saying yes, emerged top when asked if they would recommend their company to a female friend. They were followed closely by Australia with 83 per cent, the UK and the US with 82 per cent each, Hong Kong with a lower score of 77 per cent and the Middle East with only 66 per cent.

Singapore has come a long way.

"Eight years ago, it wasn't uncommon for banks in Singapore to ask female candidates at interviews about their plans for starting a family," said Craig Brewer, director of recruitment firm FiveTen Group in Singapore.

"But gradually since then, as a result of government policies and the banking sector here generally becoming more mature, these discriminatory questions have disappeared."

These days, flexible working hours, childcare benefits and mentoring programmes are among the most popular ways to improve gender balance and attract top female talent, says sales and marketing director at eFinancialCareers, George McFerran.

But problems still persist. Despite an improvement from 2012's 61 per cent, only about two-thirds (66 per cent) of Singaporean respondents believe that women are fairly represented at senior positions.

Also, only slightly more than half (54 per cent) of female financial professionals think they are fairly paid. Around two-thirds (68 per cent) of women believe that men are paid more than women in equivalent positions, and when the same question was posed to men, only 29 per cent feel they are paid more than women.

Finance professionals' views also diverge on whether they think the pay gap will improve in the future. Forty-four per cent think it will narrow, 41 per cent think it will remain at status quo, and only 15 per cent believe the gap will increase.