UK finance sector gender parity to take 30 years at current pace -study

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By Federica Urso

– The number of women employed in senior management of the UK financial sector will take 30 years to reach parity with men at the current pace, a UK government-backed initiative said on Monday as it announced steps to kick start “urgent action”.

The Woman in Finance Charter (WIFC) was founded in 2016 by the Treasury in the form of a voluntary agreement among over 400 institutions, including the Bank of England, to push for equal gender representation in the financial sector.

Yet the proportion of women in senior management roles has increased by only 1% to 32% in the two years to 2020, said Amanda Blanc, chief executive of British insurer Aviva and “champion” of the initiative.

“Progress towards gender equality in the financial sector remains frustratingly low,” Blanc said. “Women, companies and society cannot afford to wait 30 years when we can achieve this in 10.”

In a paper co-published with Bain & Co on the eve of International Women’s day, the WIFC, drawing on the results of a survey issued to all signatories, outlined some guidelines to close the current gender gap.

Its recommendations include a commitment to interview 50% women for roles at all levels, offer flexible options for all job and vacancies, advocate zero tolerance towards exclusionary behaviour and hold CEOs financially accountable for gender targets.

The research showed gender diversity is often not seen as a business issue and prioritised accordingly, with only 18% of signatories conducting quantitative and qualitative analysis linked to corporate initiatives.

“We’ve got to work quicker and harder, for the sake of women, for the sake of society and because a more diverse business is a more productive and innovative one,” said Blanc.

(Reporting by Federica Urso; editing by Simon Jessop and Cynthia Osterman)