The finance industry has long struggled to shake of the traditional stereotypes associated with it and to attract more women into the industry.
An array of initiatives have focused on making the industry more appealing for women including the government’s Women in Finance Charter, the Lord Davies’ report; and the networking group Women in Banking and Finance.
Davis’ Women on Boards review is currently aiming to achieve 33 per cent of women on FTSE 350 boards, while the Women in Finance Charter has gained the signatories of over 70 financial services firms including RBS, PwC, TSB Bank, Mastercard and Lloyds Banking Group.
Although significant progress has been made to achieve gender equality in the finance industry, there is still a long way to go. A recent review found that within the UK financial services, female representation stands at 23 per cent on boards, but only 14 per cent on executive committees.
Speaking at the 2017 First Women Summit, Eimear Creaven, Executive Vice President, Issuing Accounts UK&I Division, Mastercard, believes that it is only common sense to have more women in the finance world.
She said, “85 per cent of purchasing decisions globally are made by women. In order to market that, we need more women.”
The need for gender equality within the industry is something that Mark Freed, CEO and co-founder of E2W, agrees with. Speaking about creating his company, he said, “We were laughed at in 2000, but today gender parity is being discussed, but we have a long way to go.”
“We want to live in a better society and have a better economy and all the stats say that gender diversity will create a better economy.”
However, Helen Rose, COO, TSB, warned that, “It’s important to make sure this is a business issue and not just a fairness issue.”
Freed, Creaven and Rose went on to identify a number of causes for the lack of women in the industry including unconscious biases, being in minority and a lack of inspiring role models for young people to identify with.
Freed said, “Nobody seems to be able to come up with an inspiring reason for women to join the industry for young people who want to make a difference.”
“If you Google ‘women in finance’, then all you get is stats.”
Great career prospects and the idea of flexible working is something that Rose feels should be across all levels of a business, in order to keep women and attract more. She said, “We should also make sure women have access to flexible working and good careers throughout their lifetime and not just focusing on those women at the top.”
“Otherwise people will think that only the Armani clad, superwoman can reach the top.”
However, the issue isn’t just about identifying the reason women are put off from joining the finance industry; it’s about how to change that and encourage gender diversity.
Creaven believes that, “Until you get a critical mass of women at senior level you won’t be able to change things.”
Rose agrees saying, “It’s really important to encourage a diversity around the executive table so you get that diverse point of view. For me, it’s diversity of thought.”
Although more women at a senior level is an agreed way to help encourage gender diversity, Freed argues that, “I don’t think there is one silver bullet here.”
“The Women in Finance Charter is only one weapon in our armoury.”