Women in Finance Champion releases recommendations for financial services firms

The paper includes four key areas for firms to focus on to improve senior female representation

Amanda Blanc, Group CEO of Aviva and an advocate for women in the finance industry, has released recommendations to help women progress into senior roles in financial services.

Blanc is HM Treasury’s Women in Finance Champion and plays a crucial role in promoting HM Treasury’s Women in Finance Charter, asking signatories to pledge to help women progress into senior roles in their business.

Recommendations for financial services organisations

The recommendations are based on interviews with financial services CEOs, academic research, and over 100 responses to a survey issued to the Charter’s signatory organisations and ask financial services firms to take action in four areas to improve gender diversity.

The first area is recruitment. Proposals include:

  • mandate diverse shortlists for senior positions with 50% female representation
  • greater use of psychometric testing
  • remove male-biased recruitment advertising
  • ensure diverse interview panels
  • start women at the top of pay scales for new roles
  • mid-career returners programmes to help women move back into work

The second area is through retention and promotion; the proposals are below:

  • publish bonus payments of senior members of organisations
  • advertise all jobs as flexible
  • formal sponsorship programmes for women at all levels
  • full pay equal parental leave, childcare facilities, and benefits packages that supports women at key life stages like menopause

The third is through culture and behaviour changes, including:

  • reverse mentoring
  • champion senior female role models
  • funding and support for women’s networks
  • zero-tolerance policy for harassment

The fourth is embedding diversity, equality & inclusion (DEI). Proposals include:

  • detailed annual gender representation targets for all parts of an organisation
  • gender parity targets embedded into KPIs/ scorecards for all senior management
  • real-time dashboard to showcase progress against gender targets accessible to the public

The paper also reveals other areas in which financial services firms are failing on diversity and inclusion, including the 91% of surveyed organisations that do not monitor for unintended penalties from flexible working such as proximity bias and the 68% that don’t have female representation on all promotion committees.

The Women in Finance Charter has supported firms to drive their gender diversity agendas forward, including sustainable change in financial services. However, average progress towards targets has slowed recently. Blanc’s sense of urgency about improving female representation in the sector is backed up by statistics showing that the proportion of women in senior management roles increased by only 1% between 2018 and 2020, from 31% to 32%. Should this progress remain slow, it will take the financial services industry another 30 years to achieve gender parity at senior levels.

She said: “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 ten.

“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.”

You can download the recommendations in full here.

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