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Treasury calls for intervention on gender diversity in financial services

Economic secretary to the Treasury John Glen has called for “evidence-based interventions” in financial services to make more progress toward gender parity.

Speaking about the business case for diversity at the PIMFA Wealth of Diversity Conference 2019, Glen commended the progress of the industry’s initiative to address the issue, but said the progress has been slow.

Glen spoke about the developments of the Women in Finance Charter, which was launched in 2016 and has been signed by 300 financial services firms, employing some 78,000 people. According to the Financial Reporting Council review from the last September, charter signatories achieved higher diversity reporting scores than other FTSE 350 companies.

In the charter’s second annual review due in March, the signatories will update their progress. Glen said he will use the review to inform the government’s action forward but was clear on the need for interventions. Elsewhere the government has listed actions such as “including multiple women in shortlists for recruitment and promotions” among other examples of what companies can do.

Glen said: “To have a real impact, it is important that we focus on what works, delivering interventions collaboratively and with a collective voice that promotes the progression of women.

“Across the whole spectrum of the debate, it is clear that evidence-based interventions to bring about the step change is needed, as progress is slow.

“Firms should make a habit of learning from one another, measuring their impact, and self-evaluating.”

The Investment Association’s diversity strategy managing director, Karis Stander, says there has been a momentum among companies keen to recruit diverse talent.

Investment20/20, the IA’s diversity strategy, aims to attract young people from all walks of life into the investment management industry and connect them with the partner companies in the industry looking for a diverse workforce.

Stander says:”When you make sure you have the widest possible pool which you can attract at entry point, and develop, nurture and grow people, then you can look at the more senior team and say ‘we actually have a diverse group of diverse backgrounds and different ways of thinking, rather than being homogeneous.’ That is essential.”

At the end of his speech, Glen challenged the participants to do their part in driving change in their organisations in the following ways:

If you are responsible for recruiting or promoting people, ask yourself:

  • Could this job be done by someone working part-time, or someone working flexibly, or someone who is returning to work after taking time out?
  • Are you using skills-based assessment or structured interviews, so that your decisions are driven by what candidates can really do, rather than a sense of whether they will ‘fit’?
  • Have you included more than one woman on your shortlist?

If you are a senior leader, ask yourself:

  • Does your organisation know that you are committed to improving diversity?
  • How are you communicating this, and how are you holding your team accountable?
  • Are you treating this like any other business priority?
    Look at who you mentor and sponsor – does this reflect the widest pool of talent in your organisation?

And whatever your role, ask yourself:

  • Do you support and encourage difference in your team?
  • Can you be a role model for someone else?
  • And I put to everyone the same question I put to senior leaders – does your organisation know you care about this and how are you holding them accountable?

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