It will take 30 years to reach gender parity at senior levels of the UK financial services industry if nothing is done to improve the “frustratingly slow” current rate, according to Amanda Blanc, group chief executive officer of Aviva, and Women in Finance Champion.
As the week of International Women’s Day approaches, research by the Women in Finance Taskforce calculated the 30 year number by looking at the proportion of senior management among the 400 signatories who were female. During that timeframe it increased by just one percentage point between 2018 and 2020, from 31% to 32%.
Blanc, who has run Aviva since July 2020 and was appointed by the Treasury as the women in finance charter champion a year ago, 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 10.” she says.
She added, “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. ”
The UK government’s Women in Finance Charter was launched in 2016 as a voluntary agreement committing firms to gender diversity targets. It has over 400 signatories including Aviva, the Bank of England, London Stock Exchange, the fund manager BlackRock, the banks Morgan Stanley, Santander and Monzo, and the building society Nationwide.
The Women in Finance Charter Accountable Executive Taskforce has worked with Bain & Company to develop a series of practical recommendations to help firms accelerate their progress towards gender equality.
They were 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.
They include mandating shortlists for senior positions with 50% female representation, greater use of psychometric testing in recruitment, removing male-biased recruitment advertising. Also, on the list were creating diverse interview panels and mid-career returner programmes to help women move back into work.
Her other recommendations included advertising all jobs as flexible, publishing bonus payments of all senior managers, formal sponsorship programmes for women at all levels, full-pay equal parental leave and benefits packages that support women at key life stages including menopause.
Blanc said senior female role models and zero-tolerance policies for harassment were crucial for improving culture and behaviour.
She also advised setting detailed annual gender representation targets for all parts of the organisation, a real-time dashboard to showcase progress against gender targets that is publicly available and embedding gender parity targets into scorecards for all senior management linked to executives achieving gender equality targets.
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