Charter outlines blueprint for gender equality as progress slows

A new paper from Women in Finance offers a blueprint for how financial services firms can increase the pace of progress towards gender equality at senior levels.



It could take the financial services 30 years to achieve gender parity at senior levels, according to a new report which finds that the proportion of women in senior management increased by only 1% between 2018 and 2020  – up from 31% to 32%.

A Women in Finance Charter paper says progress towards the Charter’s gender diversity targets has slowed in recent years.

In response the Women in Finance Charter Accountable Executive Taskforce has worked with Bain & Company to set out a series of practical recommendations to help businesses accelerate their progress. The recommendations are based on interviews with financial services CEOs, academic research, and over 100 responses to a survey issued to all of the Charter’s  signatory organisations.

The paper recommends financial services organisations take action in four areas to accelerate gender diversity: recruitment, retention and promotion, culture and behaviour and embedding diversity.

On recruitment, recommendations include mandating diverse shortlists for senior positions with 50% female representation, greater use of psychometric testing, removing male-biased recruitment advertising, ensuring diverse interview panels, starting women at the top of pay scales for new roles and creating mid-career returners programmes to help women move back into work.

On retention and promotion the paper calls for publication of bonus payments of senior members of organisation CEO and CEO-1 and -2, advertisement of all jobs as flexible, the creation of a formal sponsorship programme for women at all levels and full pay equal parental leave, childcare facilities and benefits packages that supports women at key life stages such as the menopause.

When it comes to culture and behaviour, recommendations include reverse mentoring, championing senior female role models, funding and supporting women’s networks and a zero tolerance policy for harassment. And on embedding diversity, equality and inclusion, it recommends detailed annual gender representation targets for all parts of organisation, gender parity targets embedded into KPIs/ scorecards for all senior management and real-time dashboard to showcase progress against gender targets accessible to the public.

A survey for the report shows that businesses offer a median two weeks paternity leave vs 20 weeks maternity leave; that 91% of surveyed organisations do not monitor for unintended penalties from flexible working such as proximity bias; and just 18% have a career returners programme. 94% track and report female representation in senior management, but just 32% have a real-time dashboard with gender parity targets at Executive and Board level meetings and 68% do not have female representation on all promotion committees. Moreover, just18% audit performance reviews for bias; 36% have an inclusive meeting protocol to ensure the right people are at the table and to eliminate ‘group think’; and only 20% of surveyed signatories offer sponsorship programmes to senior women.

Amanda Blanc, Group Chief Executive Officer of Aviva, and Women in Finance Champion, says: “Progress towards gender equality in the financial sector remains frustratingly slow. Women, companies and society cannot afford to wait 30 years when we can achieve this in 10.

“We’ve got to work quicker and harder, for the sake of women, for the sake of society and because a more diverse business is a more productive and innovative one. Our recommendations provide real life examples of best practice and a set of clear actions to guide us all towards lasting gender parity.”

Meanwhile, a survey of UK managers and HR professionals, carried out for workplace management firm GoodShape by Ipsos, has found that 34% believe that remote working initiatives introduced during the pandemic will be rolled back as the threat of Covid recedes. This is despite 66% supporting current work-from-home policies. Respondents also expect initiatives addressing poor mental health among staff to be rolled back, even though that was the leading cause of work absenteeism in the UK in 2021.

In other news it was reported women’s health minister Maria Caulfield is expected to sign up to a charter this week committing ministers to supporting women in the civil service who suffer from menopausal symptoms, including through offering flexible working, time off for GP visits and access to quiet rooms. News UK, PwC, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Santander UK have already signed up to the charter.

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