Here’s How We Improve D&I in the Finance Sector

Ensuring diversity and inclusion (D&I) within the workplace is a key concern for businesses no matter what the sector.

The finance sector has traditionally been perceived to be male-dominated, so robust D&I strategies are essential to ensure a career in the industry is appealing to the next generation of professionals – no matter the individual’s gender, background or ability.

According to Kyra Cordrey, Director of Michael Page Finance , the drive to attract a more diverse workforce, including women and people from BAME backgrounds, is a positive step in the right direction. In fact, around 93% of our clients are now actively seeking advice on how to improve diversity and inclusivity within their teams.

Typically, the larger, regulated firms have led the charge on diversity in financial and professional services industries and have for many years driven an inclusion agenda. As a result, they have made more creative hires and through resetting their values, which is having positive impacts on their company culture. When compared to other industries, the finance sector is in some senses, relatively balanced and displays a high level of willingness to embrace diversity and inclusion. Implementing D&I is essential to addressing the under-representation of minority groups and to ensuring that a career within the industry can continue to appeal to the next generation of financial professionals.

This trend of underrepresentation in the financial services sector, particularly at senior level, is also backed up by research. According to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), gender diversity is low within the finance industry with women making up just around 17% of FCA-approved individuals. Despite several senior management regime changes, this figure has remarkably not changed since 2005. Currently, there is a slightly higher share of women employed at larger firms (23%) compared to smaller ones (17%).

Promoting a clear D&I programme

Finance professionals need to ensure their departments are on board with the vision and strategy set by the firm. It is important for HR managers to embed a robust D&I strategy for the business which facilitates a positive direction of movement for the company. If their company strategy has been put in place and the business is at the point at which they are publishing and celebrating their D&I success, it will become a virtuous circle of success.

It is important for HR managers to embed a robust D&I strategy for the business which facilitates a positive direction of movement for the company. If their company strategy has been put in place and the business is at the point at which they are publishing and celebrating their D&I success, it will become a virtuous circle of success.

PwC’s Female Millennial Report also highlights that 85% of respondents believe that an employer’s policy on diversity, equality and workforce inclusion is an important factor when deciding whether to join a company. From this you can derive that a clear inclusion programme is essential factor for attracting high calibre candidates. It is also productive to have a dedicated senior team responsible for promoting this programme. For example, Heather Melville OBE is the Head of Business Inclusion Initiatives for RBS and has established the RBS Women’s Network, which aims to attract, retain and develop talented female members of staff, as part of the bank’s strategy to have a fully gender balanced workforce by 2030. She has been recognised as a leader who has made a difference to the economic empowerment of women worldwide and is now a patron of Women in Banking & Finance.

Supporting women in finance

As an employer or hiring manager, there are several improvements that can be made to the culture, hiring processes and mentoring programmes within an organisation which can better support and encourage women to strive for higher leadership roles. It goes without saying that these challenges cannot be simply solved by telling women to stop deselecting themselves. Rather, companies need to work better with aspiring women to progress their career journeys by encouraging them to share ideas and take on leadership tasks, while helping them recognise their strengths.

Recognise strength at all levels and highlight to all that out of the box thinking and fresh ideas are welcomed, as well as respected. Such inclusive cultures encourage everyone within in an organisation to put themselves forward confidently, without the fear of failure or discrimination, which in turn ensures that women feel they can contribute their ideas and that they will be heard and valued by the business.

Men and women aren’t just different in the workplace but also during the interview stage. The interview process is a two-way evaluation. If companies do not convey the right impression to female candidates about the career progression, support, and the inclusive environment the business provides, the company runs the risk of missing out on valuable talent. We’ve also seen more organisations including both men and women in their hiring processes, for all roles.

Mentoring programmes

Mentorship is also a key tool for encouraging more women into leadership roles. Mentoring not only allows experienced senior leaders to share their knowledge, but it also affords those in junior positions the opportunity to explore their potential, as well as seek guidance on how to progress their career. Many businesses have internal mentoring programmes, but the key is to assess out how many were developed with female career progression as a key priority? The most crucial aspect of such a programme is support. A strong leader or successful role model in a senior position within the organisation can provide a wealth of insight, advice and encouragement to anyone looking to advance their career in finance. With a good mentorship programme in place, aspiring leaders benefit from fresh perspective, inspiration and the guidance needed to keep pushing themselves to reach the top.

If your organisation doesn’t have an internal mentoring programme, there are a lot of external examples which could support your business’ D&I strategy. For example, Women in Banking & Finance’s programme offers an opportunity to connect one-on-one with a fellow WIBF member. Mentees are matched to more senior mentors within WIBF and can seek career guidance, advice and support.

Diversity needs to be the tone at the top of any large business and attracting a diverse candidate pool is the start. However, to create a truly inclusive environment, providing the correct internal support is key to driving behavioural change.

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