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By Clare Jupp

A total of 141 firms have now formally pledged to promote gender diversity since the Women in Finance Charter’s launch in March 2016.

This means more than 560,000 people are now covered by it – equal to over half of the employees in the financial services sector and more than the total employees in the mining, energy and water sector combined.

This is an impressive statistic and the charter is clearly making an impact within the industry.

It is also noteworthy that Treasury has released research conducted by think-tank New Financial with existing signatories which found more than two-thirds of finance firms believe signing up will lead to permanent and sustainable change in gender diversity at senior levels across the industry.

According to the findings, 62% of firms have taken specific action to support female career progression since signing up. That includes Brightstar, whoI am proud to say were one of the original signatories of the charter and are making great strides with encouraging and supporting career progression for women in our business.

Aspirational targets

But what next? How many of our sector colleagues are still part of organisations that have not signed the Women in Finance Charter or indeed, even know what it is, what it aims to do and why they should sign up?

My guess, sadly, is too many. While I am delighted that organisations such as Atom Bank and Shawbrook are signed up and enthusiastically proactive in this front, I am disappointed by the lack of traction overall.

If you’re cautious about the commitments that have to be made or just plain disinterested in the whole thing, perhaps I can take this opportunity to provide a few key facts. Signing up to the Women in Finance Charter simply means that organisations will commit to four actions that will help to bring improvements. While organisations will be accountable, there is no punishment for failing to meet every target that is set. The targets are aspirational (but practical) ideals; they serve to get organisations thinking seriously about what they can and will do to improve their gender diversity. What’s not to like?

The four actions outlined by the charter are:

  • having one member of the senior executive team who is responsible and accountable for gender diversity and inclusion;
  • setting internal targets for gender diversity in senior management;
  • publishing progress annually against these targets in reports on the company website;
  • and having an intention to ensure the pay of the senior executive team is linked to delivery against these internal targets on gender diversity.

What must also be said however, is that signing up is not just about being politically correct or ticking a box for the organisation.

Businesses are waking up to the fact that promoting more women into senior roles is not only the right and proper thing to do, but that it will also improve their overall business performance. Diversity of thought at the top is crucial in keeping the financial sector at the cutting edge.