Advancing diversity in the financial services industry: UK-style

July 14, 2016

It was welcome news in my inbox a few days ago: 72 financial institutions have signed up for a new UK government charter to improve gender diversity in senior positions in the financial services sector. What’s more, this pledge isn’t a mere statement of a commitment to gender diversity: signatories commit to executing on at least three concrete actions:

  1. having one member of the senior executive team who is responsible and accountable for gender diversity and inclusion;
  2. setting internal targets for gender diversity in senior management;
  3. publishing progress annually against targets  on their website.

Public reporting in corporate diversity initiatives, the third pillar of this charter, is a trend that we at Women’s World Banking support. Perhaps the charter can look toward the example of the recently launched Bloomberg Financial Services Gender-Equality Index (BFGEI) (which we helped develop), to facilitate the benchmarking and comparative tracking critical to measuring performance. Currently, BFGEI only has 26 reporting firms, 8* of which are also Charter signatories. Adding the remaining 64 signatories go far in showing the entire financial services industry that advancing gender-diverse leadership is something they can no longer ignore.

Women’s World Banking has been working for more than ten years to advance strong, gender-diverse leadership among the financial institutions we work with. Why? Because we know that institutions with diverse leadership teams make better decisions about complex problems and are more likely to serve more women clients and serve them well. We’ve been flooded by numerous reports in just these past few months about howgender-diverse leadership and governance have positive outcomes for the corporate bottom-line.

In announcing the launch of the charter, the UK Treasury recognized this important linkage: “[It] reflects the government’s aspiration to see gender balance at all levels across financial services firms [because] it is good for customers, for profitability and workplace culture, and is increasingly attractive for investors.” Needless to say, it’s good for the British economy too, especially at a time when the Brexit vote has cast considerable uncertainty on the future of the British financial sector and the economy as a whole. I applaud the Treasury and the signatory firms for demonstrating to the rest of the world how government and private sector can come together to realize the promise of gender diversity in financial services.

* The eight overlapping firms are: Barclays, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, MasterCard, Metlife, Prudential, Standard Chartered