FS Disruptor Forum: Equity for Women in Financial Services
Financial services has made major strides in investing in technology in recent years, transforming the way the sector operates and creating efficiencies. But is the industry neglecting to maximise the use of another key resource – its female workforce?
There is a general acknowledgment that women continue to battle the gender pay gap, discrimination, and inequality of opportunity.
This is why we, at Apex Group chose this topic as first subject in our FS Disruptor Forum series. Our discussion forum, on Equity for Women in Financial Services, was attended by over 50 participants to engage in conversation that explored the challenges women face in financial services and looked at what businesses are doing to improve equity for women in the workplace.
Many firms are now taking steps to address gender disparity issues, at Apex Group we have launched the Women’s Accelerator Program -this scheme focuses on elevating female talent, so program members have the tools and skills to reach their full potential. It’s aim? To deliver a long-term sustainable plan that focuses on our existing talent in order to drive equity for female progression within our business and ultimately improve diversity at all levels of our business.
During the Equity for Women in Financial Services think tank, participants discussed the importance of living by the standards set by a company. Mitali Rakhit, Co-Founder and CEO, GUARDARA, elaborated: “As we embark on this journey to establish equity and diversity within our team, we must ensure we are living the larger value sets on a day-to-day basis.”
Rakhit commented: “We must ensure our principles continue to be implemented as the company grows and as the organisation becomes more complex. It is important that future management and leaders share the same set of values that we as founders share.”
One of the key challenges is that women are often overlooked for senior management positions. Many employers continue to play into the narrative and assumption that this is a result of women leaving the world of work to start a family.” Rosie Guest, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Apex Group shared, “At Apex Group we challenged this outdated notion and found that it was not the case in our business. Instead, women who did make it to senior positions are actually ‘stickier’ as employees than their male peers.
In 2021 the voluntary male attrition rate at the director level was 66% versus just 20% for female directors.
Another challenge discussed by the panellists was unconscious bias. “This is a complex issue, as although there has been improvement when it comes women being selected for more senior roles, we found that once in those positions, surrounded by male peers, those women are less likely to be rated highly in their performance reviews.” Guest commented. This demonstrates that unconscious bias is still at play – these women have the ability, they are being put forward for promotions, but are not being acknowledged or perceived in the same way as their male counterparts.
Education is key
For professional women to overcome the career development and opportunity challenges they continue to face in our sector, education is vital in encouraging more businesses in financial services to foster inclusive working environments. “It’s carrying on the conversation to make sure we take measurable action,” affirmed David Page, founder and CEO, Business Mix and member of the panel.
Nina Paine, global head, cyber partnerships & third-party security risk oversight, Standard Chartered, concluded: “We need conscious leadership, and for leaders to understand and have empathy with their team and prioritise their wellbeing, not just at home but at work too.”
Did you miss our first think tank session in the FS Disruptor Forum? Make sure you register here to be the first to hear about the next virtual event! Join the group of industry leaders challenging the way we do things to drive innovation and positive change.