It is a commitment by HM Treasury and signatory firms to work together to build a more balanced and fair industry. A balanced workforce is, of course, good for business. It is good for customers, for profitability and workplace culture, and is increasingly attractive for investors. Therefore, it follows that businesses that sign up to this Charter are pledging to be the very best in their sector.
At Brightstar we are already fully committed to promoting diversity in the workplace and are proud to have female representation at all levels of the business, including management and board level. As such, these women serve as excellent role models for other female co-workers. With a strong focus on people development, we are fully committed to flexible working practices and we fully support working parents. Our two top business consultants for 2014 and 2015 respectively were both female; one was fully supported to train from being an administrator to business consultant and the other returned to work after maternity leave and is now on a flexible working contract. Therefore, we feel confident that our approach to people development is both conducive and crucial to promoting gender equality and promoting diversity in the workplace as well as ensuring that women can be as successful as men.
However, we always aspire to be better and it is our intention now that one member of our senior executive team will be fully responsible and accountable for leading on gender diversity and inclusion, setting targets and reporting on progress against these. Gender equality will be featured as a measurable target on our strategic plan moving forward, thus indicating our full commitment to the principles of the Charter.
We are also committed to the idea of increasing female representation at Board level. This currently stands at 14% but we would aim to increase this to 25% by 2017 and to 35% by 2018. We also plan to actively recruit more female business consultants, increasing representation from just 9% to at least 20% by 2017 and 30% by 2018. While our current female employees are hugely successful, they are still an under-represented group but still outstanding employees and role models to all.
I believe that while there is perhaps greater challenge for smaller business to achieve the aspirational ratios and ambitious percentages advocated by the Women in Finance Charter, the key thing for us all is that we commit to making firm improvements and thus ensure that our awareness of gender equality and the importance of this issue is kept firmly at the forefront of our minds.
As a female director at Brightstar and a member of the Ladies Executive Club, I am asking businesses from across our sector to come forward and pledge their support for the Charter. This is easy to do by visiting the website www.womeninfinance.org.uk and signing up to the Charter.
What is the Charter?
The Charter was launched by HM Treasury following recommendations made by Jayne-Anne Gadhia, Virgin Money’s CEO, who led a review into the representation of women in senior leadership roles in the finance industry.
Gadhia’s report found that the pay gap between men and women worse in financial services than in any other sector, with a woman earning 60p for every £1 that a man earns. Also revealed in the report was the fact that women made up 23% of boards at City firms but only 14% of executive committees. Just 6% of CEOs in the financial services sector are women.
The charter is a set of voluntary proposals which aims to boost the number of women in senior roles from 35% to 40% by the end of 2017. It 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.
Recognising the diversity of the sector and the fact that firms will have different starting points, each organisation should set its own targets and implement the right strategy for their organisation. The Charter also requires firms to publicly report on progress to deliver against these internal targets to support the transparency and accountability needed to drive change.