We can all help create a gender-balanced City that reflects the customers it serves

 
Inga Beale
London 2012 - London Transport
We must in place the right development and exposure opportunities to enable and empower our young female talent to progress (Source: Getty)

When I started my City career in 1982, it was a very different scene to today.

Women in leadership positions were a rare thing, and the easiest way to cope with the culture at that time was to behave as much like a man as possible.

Thankfully, that’s not the world I now work in.

Read more: Sadiq Khan launches initiative to get more women into leadership roles

Companies today realise the value of diversity and employees who bring their whole selves to work. But the underrepresentation of women in senior roles is still a very real problem, with research showing that positions of power in every sector of society are dominated by men.

Women currently make up just six per cent of FTSE 100 chiefs, 26 per cent of cabinet ministers, and 32 per cent of MPs.

It’s a sobering situation, and we need those in power to realise the importance of change. I think there’s more my profession – insurance – could be doing, particularly to attract young women and to help them develop their careers.

The insurance sector has an incredible social purpose, but for us to fulfil that, we must reflect the markets we are in and the customers we serve.

This means building diverse teams across all levels, and also putting in place the right development and exposure opportunities to enable and empower our young female talent to progress.

I am pleased to see public sector leaders taking the issue more seriously, like London mayor Sadiq Khan.

His new initiative, Our Time, pairs women looking to progress in their careers in the public sector with senior “champions” who advocate for them within their organisation, introduce them to new social and professional networks, and support them to prepare for progression into a senior role.

The initiative is part of the mayor’s #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign, which celebrates the success of women in the capital.

Too often, women have been doing well in a job for years, but don’t know how to take that leap to the top. By offering women with potential the relationships and opportunities they need to progress their career, employers can nurture their talent, boost their confidence, and reap the benefits.

As a society, we also need to be honest and transparent about the scale of the gender imbalance so that we can collectively and individually work on tackling this long-standing and systemic issue.

I am not proud of Lloyd’s gender pay gap (27.7 per cent), which we are committed to closing. Our initiatives include a senior management gender diversity target of at least 40 per cent female in the next five years, inclusive hiring practices, shared parental leave, and policies that support working families.

And the London mayor’s office has been working on these issues as well – publishing two gender pay audits at City Hall, promoting training and promotion opportunities for women, and appointing women to a number of senior positions, including six deputy mayors and the night czar.

Ultimately, the charge lies with all of us – to tackle inequality where we see it, celebrate the success of women in our great city, and take bold action to unlock their full potential.

Read more: Gender pay gap 91 per cent for top earners at financial services firms

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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