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The ideal vs reality -  Just sound bites vs understanding what it’s really like at the coal face

The ideal vs reality -  Just sound bites vs understanding what it’s really like at the coal face

Mark.Freed / 05 Nov 2017

In the last ten days, three high-profile women, including Theresa May, have spoken out about improving gender diversity in financial organisations.  Mark Freed writes an open letter to them to share his experiences of life at the coal face.  

Theresa May – Prime Minister
Nicky Morgan – Chair of the Treasury Committee
Jayne-Anne Gadhia – CEO of Virgin Money and the Government appointed Champion of Women in Financial Services. 

Dear Theresa, Nicky and Jayne-Anne

Firstly, we are thrilled that you’re so supportive of financial institutions achieving gender diversity.  This is something that E2W is passionate about: we strive for gender parity and work  with banks, asset managers and the like in order to assist with their gender specific recruitment strategies.

Theresa, we too are closely monitoring the reporting of the gender pay gap.  So far only six financial institutions have filed their figures but it looks likely that the financial sectors pay gap will be between 30-40%. We agree with you about the importance of closing the gender pay gap and the effort that’s required to do so.  As you say, “Tackling injustices like the gender pay gap is part of building a country that works for everyone.  But the gender pay gap isn’t going to close on its own – we all need to be taking sustained action to make sure we address this.”

Nicky in your position as chair of the treasury select committee, we applaud your inquiry into Women in Financial Services including the the success of the Women in Finance Charter.  E2W is a signatory of the Charter and as an industry board member, I encourage those within our network to sign up too.  As you say, “More women than men are employed in the financial services sector, but female representation at senior levels has been historically low.  Gender diversity across job grades and functions delivers benefits to firms, society and the wider economy.”

Jayne-Anne, it’s great to have someone from business on the campaign too and your vision and enthusiasm for change are impressive.  We’re sure that Theresa will support your call for the creation of a “ministerial board” that would champion the economic benefits of gender diversity.  Your report into women in financial services led to the launch of the Charter and your continued support is welcome.  You understand our battle, as you say, “We should be doing everything that we can to make sure those that haven’t [signed the charter] explain why they haven’t, or sign up.”

But, Theresa, Nicky and Jayne, let me tell you about what it’s like in the field ….. 

Whilst you were making your comments last week I was meeting the head of executive recruitment at a major investment bank that has signed the Women in Finance Charter.  He had not even heard of the Women in Finance Charter!  His position on gender diversity, Theresa, was that it was cyclical and would blow over!  Whilst this is an extreme example of what we face, it is not unusual.  

The man I met, like many of his colleagues in the industry, doesn’t have a target for gender diversity in recruitment, let alone a strategy.  Many of his internal clients, of both genders, are passionate about gender diversity and are left to wonder why they are not seeing more female candidates for roles, and why the ‘needle’ is not moving as fast as it could.  

By my calculations, if banks are going to meet their targets, many will need to ensure that over 50% of new recruits at senior levels in the next few years are female.  Yet, many banks lack a credible recruitment strategy to achieve gender diversity.

The moment is with us, a lot of ‘will’ exists in the business and political world to drive change for good. Society is ready and demanding it.  Our business leaders need to start ensuring that their teams are developing and implementing strategies that turn their commitments into reality.   If not, the transparency afforded by the Charter and Gender Pay Gap Reporting could see some very red faces over the next few years.    

On a positive note many of our clients are, with the help of E2W, implementing recruitment strategies that are seeing some really positive results.  They join us and you in believing that we have a fantastic opportunity to change society and as you said, Theresa, make this country work for everyone.  I strongly believe that you as leaders in Government and business need to ensure that your targets for addressing the gender gap in financial services are delegated to the people who can make a difference. 
We stand alongside you in your endeavours,
Mark Freed, CEO, E2W

Later this year E2W will be publishing its Gender Recruitment Best Practice guide. If you would like a copy please email me   
Mark Freed is CEO of E2W, the company that he set up with Tina twenty years ago to address the issue of gender diversity.  He is passionate about gender parity and encourages more men to join the campaign.  


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