It will take 30 years before the financial services industry reaches gender parity in senior roles, according to Women in Finance champion Amanda Blanc.
Blanc, who is chief executive of insurance giant Aviva, said progress towards gender equality in financial services was “frustratingly slow”.
The Women in Finance charter cites research showing that the proportion of women in senior management increased by only 1% between 2018 and 2020, from 31% to 32%. At this rate of progression, it would take another 30 years to reach gender parity.
The charter asks signatories to accelerate their diversity agendas by committing to a number of actions that will increase gender representation at senior levels in financial services.
Working with consultancy Bain & Company, representatives for the charter have come up with a series of recommendations based around four key areas: recruitment, retention/promotion, culture and behaviour and embedding diversity, equity and inclusion.
Gender equality at work
Its research found that organisations offered a median two weeks’ paternity leave versus 20 weeks’ maternity leave, and only 18% had a career returners programme to enable employees to return after a long break (for example raising children).
Suggested activities include restructuring the recruitment process so it removes unconscious biases, making it skills-focused rather than experience-based in approach.
The performance management process should be transparent and gender neutral, with support for parents so they don’t lose out in terms of career progression. Just under one fifth (18%) currently audit performance reviews for bias.
Culturally, senior management should be prepared to remove unacceptable behaviours and “take symbolic acts” such as sharing their own stories of vulnerability.
Finally, CEOs and other top executives should be held financially accountable for gender targets, and organisations should use data to create real-time dashboards that reflect their progress in diversity goals. Only around a third currently have such a dashboard, according to Bain & Company.
Blanc added that companies needed to “work quicker and harder, for the sake of society and because a more diverse business is a more productive and innovative one”.
Nishma Gosrani, partner in the financial services practice at Bain & Company, said a “fundamental shift” was needed in financial services to speed up progress.
“The sector’s reputation and ability to attract great talent are at stake,” she said. “Building the next generation of women leaders will be critical to the UK for attracting the best talent as a world-leading international financial centre.”
Last week, analysis of official figures from law firm Fox & Partners found that female FTSE 350 financial services directors are paid 66% less than male counterparts.