In recent years businesses have strived to create a fair and equal working environment for people of all walks of life and one of the key areas focused on is equal opportunities for men and women. This International Women’s Day, the accomplishments, and successes of women in all industries should be celebrated, whilst also setting new agendas for how to encourage female participation across a broad range of sectors.
In particular, the finance sector is notoriously unequal in its representation of women with a disproportionate number of women currently holding leadership or senior roles in comparison to men. Whilst many believe this is due to a lack of encouragement for women to pursue roles in finance, data from 2021,found that the proportion of women in leadership roles within financial service firms was just 24%. While the progress made through legislation and positive social change for women’s careers cannot be ignored, it’s clear than in some areas, such as the finance sector, more work can be done.
With this in mind, Lauren Couch, the managing director at Growth Lending offers her advice on how businesses in the financial sector can meet the needs of women and encourage their development within the sector. The piece explores how inclusive policies and advocating for female role models, can be a great way to encourage female success in the industry.
So, where is best to start?
Establish an understanding management team
For women in the finance sector, the idea that they could one day work through the ranks to a more senior position may seem out of reach, especially if the management that they’re working under is predominantly male. Because of this, it’s the responsibility of the current management team to inspire and motivate women to want the leadership roles, as well as demonstrate to them that they are capable of progressing up the ranks.
One way of doing this is making it clear how hard work is recognised within the management structure. Recognising the quality of outputs, rather than the number of hours a person spends at their desk is just one example of how women can feel motivated to progress in finance.
Workplace policy is also another structure that can be established within the management team that can benefit the progression of women. For example, if a business has positive maternity policies, more flexible hours offered to employees as well as remote working options, this can show that the business is accommodating to the female experience. Similarly, showing senior members of staff making use of these it’s likely that more women who may have initially been deterred from leadership, will feel more at ease, and more motivated to pursue them as current women in senior roles are doing so.
Update the recruitment process
The recruitment process within the finance sector is very competitive, with a broad range of talented and skilled individuals seeking to enter the industry every year. As of 2021, there were 516,000 full time male employees in the financial and insurance activities sector in the UK, whereas there were just 344,000 female employees in comparison.
To update the recruitment process to be more welcoming to female applicants, changes to the way CVs are processed, interviews are conducted, and who gets the final say when it comes down to choosing an applicant can all be changed or improved.
Implementing an anonymous CV process can ensure that those who move onto later stages of the application are chosen for their skills, experience and desirable business qualities. While this doesn’t mean that women are less likely to be chosen simply because their women, it removes the risk of unconscious bias, and makes the selection process more fair overall.
During interviews, having more than one representative of the business conducting them allows for different perspectives to be considered as well as better judging of the character of the applicant. For women, it can also provide an example of their potential future within the company upon successful hiring, especially if they’re being interviewed by one or more women in senior roles. It also allows for a HR representative to be present as well, who could provide more detail on policies that can support them while working there.
Finally, having a more group-oriented decision process for selecting a successful candidate can be ensure fair treatment and that the right person is selected for the role. Again, this can relate heavily to eliminating the potential for unconscious gender bias.
By improving a business’s recruitment process, it not only promotes gender equality but can also be used as a way to show women applying the potential that a job in the finance sector can bring and what kind of senior roles are available to them, making it a crucial part of encouraging women to pursue higher ranking positions.
The importance of female role-models
While legislative changes have made the workplace a more equally accessible place for women from all walks of life, it’s just as important to improve upon the social aspect of business as well as construct a visible and attainable business ladder through role-models.
Ensuring that the women who are holding the high-ranking jobs and are leading teams to be the best they can be, can provide visible proof that the finance sector is an industry that they can thrive and succeed in.
This mutual understanding and relatability is needed to inspire women to aim high and becomes increasingly relevant when taking other factors into consideration, like raising a family alongside working. Building respect for successful women who have had to work just as hard as men, if not harder, is one of the best ways to encourage women to join the finance sector, especially when considering the highly competitive nature of the industry.
The finance sector has a real opportunity available to it to welcome more women to the sector and see the real value women can bring to the industry. Whilst traditionally men have been expected to enter into financial roles, women can and do thrive in the industry but employers and senior management teams in finance businesses must do more to advocate and support the progression of women in the sector.
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