Can collaboration catalyse industry change?

Print First published: March 14th 2019; Last Updated: February 2nd 2022

The need to change culture took centre stage at the annual review of the Women in Finance Charter, with Dame Jayne-Anne Gadhia concluding that it matters for productivity as much as equality. This echoes what City Hive has long advocated for our industry. 

A rich source of advice and reflections came from the panel and speakers at New Financial's annual review of the Women in Finance Charter. There was a clear call to action to catalyse progress from all – there’s still such long way to go to gender balance. The Treasury Economic Secretary John Glen urged, ‘go further and faster in your organisation’, before calling for all firms to set targets for 33% representation of women in senior management across the Board, in line with the recommendations of the Hampton-Alexander review.

In fact, while no one is saying there is an overnight fix, progress is modest and we should all be prepared to feel uncomfortable when confronted with the numbers. There are questions still on the table about why so many women fail to reach leadership positions,and so many still feel like they are out of place in a boy’s club. And even though business is moving towards targets – 45% of the organisations reviewed having met or exceeded targets and 42% on track to do so – are those targets at the right level, and will there be long-term change?

Dame Jayne-Anne Gadhia nailed down the problem as one of culture, that you can’t expect people to thrive in an environment where they are only recognised for hard work if they shout loudly enough. And this matters beyond women; City Hive was particularly happy to see gender balance being treated as a gateway to progress on other diversity issues. Getting your 30% in place isn’t the end of the story, but the beginning of a fruitful journey to a more productive business.

The FCA’s Chris Woolard underscored the importance of a questioning mindset that comes from diversity in your business, and the advantage that confers. And in between, there were practical pieces of advice to address gender balance across organisations, from creating stretch targets to bringing it from a wider remit than HR and place it squarely in the laps of management.

Some of the key messages align directly with the City Hive view and indeed our actions to help our members to create meaningful change.

We need sectoral collaboration. There are opportunities to share best practice as well as create a race to the top and give a real choice for emerging talent when they are planning their careers. City Hive strives for this with our inclusive network. Soon, we’ll see the establishment of an Industry Board for the Women in Finance Charter, with that aim in mind.

Leadership matters. Have a clear commitment from the top that provides clarity on the message that this matters to your business and that you will act according to your principles.

Public commitment signals your intentions and that it’s the right course of action. What better way than to be part of an industry collective that is wedded to cultural change?

Diversity matters to your business’ future. Questioning voices at the table will challenge decision making and see provide different perspectives.

Balance is part of the day-to-day, embedded in KPIs and objectives. Across the business, diversity should be a requirement for the middle managers but a necessity for leadership. Future leaders then know that they must they understand and can tackle the barriers to progress.

Progress means evolving. As your business moves from the awareness-raising phase, your internal champion becomes an agitator for progress, pushing targets onwards and upwards.

You need a community of advocates. This means having more than one person as an internal champion, and it means the sharing of ideas and responsibilities. In the words of Santander, you’ll know when this is working when you see more than one person bringing the topic to the table.

And for City Hive, the core of this is engaging your staff, hearing them and working with them to create the culture where everyone will thrive. Congratulations to all the Women in Finance Charter signatories that are moving towards or beyond their targets. We stand with you and look forward to being that catalyst for cultural change.


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