The Women in Finance Charter is a commitment by HM Treasury and signatory firms to work together to build a more balanced and fair industry. Firms that sign up to this Charter are signalling their intent to reflect the government’s aspiration to see gender balance at all levels across financial services firms.
Currently there is under-representation of women at most senior levels. While there is a fairly even balance between men and women across the whole of financial services, women make up just 14% of executive committees and just 6% of CEOs. Financial services is also the second worst industry, behind construction, when it comes to the gender pay gap.
Brightstar was an early adopter of the Charter and we have helped its growth to 330 signatory businesses representing 800,000 employees in just three years, but there is still plenty to do.
So, on the last day of April, we held a briefing event in conjunction with Medianett and LDNfinance to explain a little more about what it means to be a signatory of the Charter and to dispel some myths about involvement.
The event was so well attended that we had to move to a larger venue, and it was encouraging that there were so many people with a shared belief that women are under-represented in financial services, particularly in senior roles, and that more can be done to create change.
What the Charter says
By signing up to the Women in Finance Charter, an organisation pledges to promote gender diversity by:
- having one member of its senior executive team who is responsible and accountable for gender diversity and inclusion;
- setting internal targets for gender diversity in its senior management;
- publishing progress annually against these targets in reports on its 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 the Charter means
Talk of setting targets and reporting can put some businesses off, but in my opinion, it is the actions and direction of your business that are more important than percentage targets.
Achieving representative diversity is a marathon, not a sprint and the emphasis is on the actions and thinking practises required to keep things moving in the direction of your target.
By signing up to the Charter you are committing to a journey to take your business towards greater equality and reviewing your progress along this journey.
Benefits of taking the journey
Any forward-thinking business should aspire to greater diversity, and not just on gender. It says something about your organisation and that you are committed to improving representation. This does not mean filling roles for the sake of it but having the right people in the right roles and strategies in place to advance the skillset of people for those roles. Ultimately this can benefit everyone within the organisation and the business itself.
The Women in Finance Charter unites the industry as a collective force and is good for your company’s reputation.
It’s good for workplace culture and can encourage change in how you approach decision making which can be beneficial for the business. The use of the Women in Finance logo in recruitment can also encourage more women into the industry strengthening the resource pool.
Greater diversity in the boardroom can also have a positive influence on bottom line profit, according to research by Credit Suisse, so even if you don’t buy into the other arguments, that’s a pretty compelling reason.
Some frequently asked questions
In the time I have been involved with promoting the Women in Finance Charter, I have encountered some common questions that people have asked before becoming a signatory. Here are some of those questions, and the straightforward answers:
Q. How much does it cost?
A. Nothing, it’s free
Q. Is my organisation too small?
A. No, HM Treasury is keen to encourage organisations of all sizes to take part and, as a small business, the Charter can help you by providing some guiding principles as you grow.
Q. Can I join if I already have a lot of women in the organisation?
A. Of course, this is a commitment to diversity and equality and may help you to improve some of your practices.
Q. Can I join if my organisation already has a lot of women in senior roles?
A. Yes, it’s a collective movement and a public commitment to ongoing diversity.
Q. Can I join even if my business has no women in senior roles?
A. Yes, it is commitment to working towards greater diversity.
Q. I already have strategies in place, do I need to join?
A. You don’t need to join but by doing so you can align your strategies with best practice.
Q. I don’t believe in quotas, does that make a difference?
A. The Charter is not about quotas, it is about recognising the need for greater diversity and taking steps to achieve that in a way that benefits your business.
Q. Will I get negative publicity if I don’t hit my targets?
A. No. The Charter does not name and shame. Just by signing up to it you are showing commitment to greater diversity and it would be more negative not to show this commitment.
At Brightstar, we signed up to the Charter three years ago and we are doing much better in terms of diversity that when we joined. But we’re not perfect – we don’t have enough female advisers and we don’t have enough females at executive level.
However, it doesn’t matter that we are not perfect because we are better than we were, and we are on a journey.
Your company could join that journey at www.womeninfinance.org.uk