Gender equality within the workplace has always been somewhat of a concealed topic, but the conversation is increasing due to external influences. The finance industry in the UK sees senior male staff comprise a sizeable portion. This is particularly prevalent within the sector across the United Kingdom. In this article, we examine how this circumstance has prompted the HM Treasury to put into place the Women in Finance Charter.
What is the Women in Finance Charter and Has the Industry Changed Since Its Implementation?
The Women in Finance Charter is a 2016 piece of legislation introduced by the HM Treasury. It is intended to address four key industry points:
- Appointing a company executive who is responsible for gender inclusion.
- Establishing targets for gender equality within senior management.
- Publicly presenting annual findings based upon these targets.
- Addressing salary-based issues involving gender equality.
How have financial firms been affected by these statutes? The first thing to appreciate is that meeting the 2021 target set requires much more than following principles alone. Companies are focusing upon other metrics such as flexible working hours, gender-neutral hiring and addressing any potential pay gaps between men and women.
The Psychological Side: Have Attitudes Changed?
Change within the financial sector rarely occurs overnight; particularly if it involves modifying long-standing roles and responsibilities. Although there is no doubt that some male stalwarts will remain, women feel it’ll make the workplace become slightly less competitive when compared to the past. The main issue to take into account is that opposed to other industries, the financial sector tends to focus heavily upon B2B and B2C interactions. Therefore, interpersonal professional workplace relationships are often secondary to meeting targets and fulfilling contractual obligations.
Who’s on board?
We should fully expect that some niche markets have more balanced gender ratios than others. Larger companies are the first to get on board as they are at the media forefront. More than 60 firms have already committed to modifying their senior staff to reflect a minimum of 30 per cent female executives by the year 2021. Barclays, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Legal and General, Capital Credit Union and Virgin Money are all included within this list.
To put this in perspective, it has been shown that specific sectors such as challenger banks, building societies and diversified financial organisations are associated with the smallest gender wage gap (in reference to executive positions. On the contrary, those with the widest gap include venture capital firms, investment banks and hedge fund management enterprises. It is also interesting to note that the number of women within board-level positions tends to rise as the male-to-female ratio in reference to executive roles widens.
Can UK Companies Meet this Deadline?
For those companies that can adhere to the deadline they will enjoy a diversified workforce, and maintain a better public image. The main challenge revolves around the HR-related logistics associated with this implementation. Making the changes whilst meeting internal targets and effectively assigning the existing male-led executive positions are all very real hurdles which need to be thought about. It therefore stands to reason that larger organisations with access to more capital will have a slightly lesser challenging task when compared to enterprise-level firms.
Can related industries follow suit?
This is not merely a trend in the finance industry but a reality in all related industries, specifically in the investment sector where women in senior positions is less than 25% in the UK. Currently, Asia-Pacific hedge funds are leading the way in gender equality, something Europe has been lacking in.
The trading industry is also less advanced when it comes the gender taking up space on the trading floor. In 2013, women made up only 15% of the UK trading workforce. However, in 2014, CMC Markets wrote a commentary on how women traders have increased by an incredible 197 per cent since 2007. There is no doubt that this percentage continues to increase. As more and more women undertake careers in the sector, the growth for them should be as readily available as it is for their male counterparts.
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