In the finance industry, too few women get to the top and the numbers highlighting the problem should get everyone thinking. In 2015, women made up only 14% of Executive Committees in the financial services sector.
While more women than men start out in financial services, as they progress, the majority fall out, especially at middle management level. This leaves almost all of the top jobs in the hands of men. But research shows that companies with more women in top executive positions generally perform better, and we know that a balanced workforce at all levels will undoubtedly improve outcomes, profitability and productivity.
This is why I agreed last year to lead a government-backed review into how we can get more women in senior executive positions in the industry and we learned that this is not just about childcare. Women are leaving because the culture isn’t right. When I announced the findings of my review Empowering Productivity: harnessing the talents of women in financial services on 22 March, I recommended that financial service firms link parts of executive remuneration to gender balance targets. My review also recommended that firms set internal targets for gender diversity in their senior management, publish annual reports on their progress against these targets, and appoint an executive solely responsible for gender, diversity, and inclusion.
Off the back of these findings, the Government launched the Women in Finance Charter, a pledge for gender balance across financial services which:
- Commits firms to supporting the progression of women into senior roles in the financial services sector by focusing on the executive pipeline and the mid-tier level;
- Recognises the diversity of the sector and that firms will have different starting points – each firm should therefore set its own targets and implement the right strategy for their organisation; and
- Requires firms to publicly report on progress to deliver against these internal targets to support the transparency and accountability needed to drive change.
I am delighted to say that Thomson Reuters has announced today that it will sign the Charter.
For me, signing the Charter sends out a strong signal about what’s important to you as a business. It shows you are seriously committed to gender equality, diversity and inclusivity, as well as promoting senior female representation in professional and financial services more broadly.
I am very encouraged that a number of major financial services companies have already agreed to implement our recommendations to help build a more balanced and fair industry.
The social and economic benefits of equality are very clear. Embracing fairness and removing the barriers which prevent women from fully realising their potential at work is good for strong, sustainable business performance.
I applaud Thomson Reuters’ decision and encourage all firms across the sector to follow suit.