The Weekender: Realising “The Power of Parity”

The Women on Boards review has detailed the progress of organisations in promoting gender diversity at a leadership level in their recent annual report. The review, which was headed by Philip Hampton, GSK chairman, and Helen Alexander, the former chair of UBM, aims to see 33% women in leadership teams across the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 by 2020, with 33% women on boards across the FTSE 350 by 2020.

There are still seven companies with all-male Executive Committees in the FTSE 100, with the report also finding that only slight improvements had been made in the FTSE 250 and the FTSE 350. With just less than a third of FTSE 350 leadership roles going to women in the year, according to the Hampton Alexander review, “Almost one in two or around 40% of all appointments need to go to women over the next three years to achieve the 33% target”.

A McKinsey report released last year entitled “The Power of Parity”, raised the eye-popping possibility of an extra £150 billion on top of business-as-usual GDP forecasts in 2025 if women’s role in labour markets were equal to that of men’s. This may seem over-ambitious, however across the world we are seeing the beginning of McKinsey’s future: in Australia, Westpac has announced that women now hold 50% of leadership positions across the bank, while the National Australia Bank raised 500 million Australian dollars (£285 million) from investors keen to promote gender equality at work. This is one of the few times we’ve seen capital markets and diversity come together, and we can only hope that it is a sign of things to come.

So we now know that equal representation of women at a leadership level in financial services is achievable and we know its value, why is the City and many other organisations across the UK still dragging their feet?

While recruitment firms will continue to play their part in ensuring men and women are presented equally for opportunities, our work cannot be done in a silo. Firms must remove direct barriers to women working, create better opportunities, and reshape the underlying social norms and attitudes that define the choices women make in their careers. An all-inclusive, collaborative and supportive approach from business and key stakeholders is vital in order to drive success.

The fact remains that you can have as many diversity initiatives as you like, however, unless you have a truly inclusive culture many will be unlikely to stick.

Have a great weekend.

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