Paul Chisnall, Director, Finance & Operations Policy, UK Finance
It was a pleasure last Thursday to host UK Finance’s first Women in Finance event. Aimed principally at HM Treasury Charter signatories, we were joined by 90 or so members who received updates from Emily Cox, Virgin Money – and Jayne-Anne Gadhia’s right hand woman during the pre-HMT Charter Review – Lucy Alawi-Yates, the new HM Treasury (HMT) policy lead, and Alex Gowlland, Government Equalities Office (GEO).
We then heard from a panel of practitioners drawn from four very different organisations – RBS, Atom Bank, Equifax and American Express – who provided insights into what the Charter meant for them, how it complemented their underlying equality policies and initiatives, and additionally made the link to statutory pay gap disclosures for our largest employers.
In opening, I referenced an industry report I’d put together in 2015 – with the assistance of some in attendance in the room – profiling many of the progressive diversity and inclusion initiatives being pursued within banking and financial services. I also intimated though that I’d felt it only right to ‘fess up that within our 15 sample banks – divided equally between UK, ‘Continental’ European, and US banks – only 22 per cent of senior management posts were filled by women, adding that I wouldn’t have been surprised if this had been the case in the 1970s, the 1980s or even 1990s, but, really, in 2015?
The good news is that the Women in Finance initiative is beginning to shift the dial in the UK. Research published by New Financial earlier this year indicated that the figure had risen to 28 per cent and that Charter signatories on average had committed to reaching 35.5 per cent in the short to medium term.
Our event was very timely since this week HMT announced that the Women in Finance Charter has achieved its 300th signatory. To put into context, this involves commitment on the part of organisations within financial services employing circa 800,000 people.
And for fear of any doubt, this isn’t just about gender. In committing to the Charter, signatory organisations are signalling very clearly that they view the creation of a more equal workplace as part of their DNA, essential for a “go to” employer in modern-day Britain.
The times they are a-changin’, and not a minute too soon.