Friday 14 June 2019 7:44 am

Is gender equality top of your agenda?

Vivienne Artz is president of Women in Banking and Finance UK (WiBF).

Professional women often attend networking events as a way to meet like-minded female professionals. These forums are a great platform to exchange advice, not just on how to survive in the workplace, but how to change it for the better. 

But they also serve as a sobering reminder that there is still a lot that needs to be done to level the playing field between men and women in our sector. 

While gender diversity increasingly captures the attention of board rooms through initiatives such as the Women in Finance Charter, when it comes to the reality of gender balance in the workplace, there is still a way to go.  

Gender balance means equality at all levels, not just in the boardroom.  The fact that the financial services sector gender pay gap is more than double that of the UK average, and that it barely moved in the first year of measurement, is a harsh wake-up call to action.

At the current rate of progress, it will take until 2043 to achieve gender balance in leadership. The business case makes clear that it is imperative for us to build inclusive workplaces that can put to use all the available talent and ideas for the benefit of our institutions and society as a whole. It is good for business, and it is the right thing to do. 

Reports estimate that bridging the gender gap at work would add £150bn to the UK economy by 2025, so why is gender balance not a business critical issue for all organisations?

During the early days of my career in law and financial services, I became aware of the need for sponsors. Not only was this important to progress in the corporate world, but it was also critical to help navigate challenges, including those uniquely faced by women, and not their male peers.  

Too often, women need to consistently and materially outperform male peers to achieve recognition. I realised that, for many women to achieve their goals, they had to be significantly better than their male peers, while demonstrating additional characteristics that were not necessarily required of men. 

Criteria for promotion and any advancement seemed to carry different rules for men and women. For many industries and businesses, this remains the case, and it is simply unfair. 

Industry awards are one way to help level the playing field by recognising and celebrating individual and professional achievements. 

For me personally, they served as a turning point when in 2016 I was awarded the Women in Banking Finance (WiBF) Champion for Women Award. This recognition gave rise to a new sense of responsibility for me, and I was determined to do more. 

With the WiBF 22nd Annual Awards for Achievement taking place today, it is an opportunity for the winners – as well as those shortlisted and nominated – to leverage the WiBF national platform to amplify the great work that they are already doing.  

We can all help drive the conversation and enable individuals and firms to understand the cultural and structural changes that we need to make to deliver genuine gender balance in financial services – not in 2043, but in the next 10 years.

Although the current workplace is still unbalanced, we have the ambition, talent and tools to deliver the change that will transform our sector. And that starts with celebrating at the WiBF Annual Awards for Achievement. 

We are hugely proud of our awards alumni, many of whom have gone on to top roles and have received further recognition for their leadership, with many OBEs among them for their diversity and inclusion work.

Let’s all do our part to recognise and support female talent, and do everything in our power to level the playing field.