Realising the Power of Parity

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Why is the City of London and many other banking institutions across the UK still dragging their feet on equality and gender diversity initiatives?

 

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 aims to see 33% women in leadership teams across the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 by 2020 and 33% women on boards across the FTSE 350 by 2020. It was headed by Philip Hampton, GSK chairman, and Helen Alexander, the former chair of UBM.

There are still seven companies with all-male Executive Committees in the FTSE 100, the report also found 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 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 of London and many other organisations across the UK still dragging their feet?

I am fully aware that creating a gender equal workplace is no easy feat. Corporate culture is key. Breaking down barriers and creating meaningful change requires constant work and cost, in both time and money. But, the statistics are clear, investing in the short term will create long-term growth. Something we all want.

Recruitment firms, like Dartmouth, will continue to play their part in ensuring men and women are presented equally for opportunities, but our work cannot be done in a silo.

Organisations 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 businesses, management and key stakeholders is vital in order to drive success.

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

 

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