Find out more about what it means to be a Women in Finance Charter signatory from existing signatories.
All Charter signatory firms have our own individual charter commitments but by working together and sharing a variety of best practices, hopefully we can help each other reach our own goals and increase the number of women in senior positions in the financial sector.
The below case studies are a mix of practices that have worked in signatory firms along with firms' experiences of being a charter signature and what it means for them.
If you would like any more information or would like to submit a case study, please get in touch with your Board Member.
There is broad agreement that greater flexibility and better support for working parents are key factors that will lead to improved gender balance in financial services. However despite the introduction of Shared Parental Leave and improvements to paternity leave policies, the take-up so far has been timid. By shining a light on early adopters, Columbia Threadneedle hopes to encourage more male colleagues to take up the opportunity.
Wendy Svirakova is Head of Institutional Communications at Columbia Threadneedle. She recently took eight month's maternity leave to have her first baby, and chose to share parental leave with her partner. The experience highlights the positive impact this had both for their family and for Wendy's transition back to work.
"I recently took eight month's maternity leave to have my first baby, a lovely boy called Oskar. Of course I experienced the usual concerns about taking time off from work, handing my job over to a contractor, transitioning back to work, balancing work and motherhood and generally the impact having a baby would have on my career. Thankfully, I was able to navigate motherhood and my way back into corporate life without any hiccups, thanks to support from two sources - my partner David and my company Columbia Threadneedle.
From the beginning, David has been my anchor. While nature dictated that Oskar was pretty much attached to me for the first few months, he ran around cleaning up the sick, did the dishes, changed nappies and cooked. He was generally there for me; all the while he worked full-time on never more than three hours of sleep at night. It is only logical that we decided to share our parental leave - I wanted him to have the opportunity to spend an extended amount of time with his son.
David works for a large, multi-national support services and construction company. He was the first of 24,000 UK employees to take shared parental leave. His decision was met with a variety of reactions by his predominantly male colleagues. Many supported him, but some questioned his motivations for spending time with his baby and therefore his commitment to work. Unsurprisingly, he had experienced the same concerns that I had about taking time off work.
What made it easier for me is the flexibility with which I was able to organise my affairs prior to and upon returning to work. I was able to transition back slowly, using my accrued holidays to initially work only a few days per week. My manager supported and in fact encouraged me to reduce my work week from five to four days - I had the flexible working policy and application form waiting for me in my inbox on my first day back. I did a few KIT days while I was on maternity leave and generally kept in touch with my team, which made the return to work much easier. My colleagues welcomed me back with arms wide open and reasonable expectations, meaning that within a few weeks I was back in the swing of things. I can't see any detriment to my career arising from having gone on maternity leave, quite the opposite. I was recently promoted to Director.
Of course I am struggling to balance both my work and private life, there is simply so much work to do on both fronts, but that's the way it is now. What makes it easier is that I don't feel bad for leaving work when I need to, or leaving Oskar in daddy's care when I can't be back in time. I'm really happy the shared parental leave legislation came into force in time for us. I'm convinced our parenting and partnership works as well as it does because we have both been able to experience and appreciate each other's roles and responsibilities - him being at home with the baby all day, me working all day and then being handed the baby in the evenings!We are about to give our baby into the care of a nanny, so soon will both have to juggle work and private life. But I'm confident that we will do this with mutual respect for each other's careers, workloads, struggles and wishes.
I really hope that more men will take the opportunity to spend time with their babies for exactly these reasons. Importantly, balanced partnerships at home will help women thrive upon their return to work and increase the number of senior women we are so desperately lacking in our industry."
Royal Bank of Scotland
"Building a diverse and more inclusive workforce is an important part of changing our culture and will help us achieve our ambition of being #1 for customer service, trust and advocacy by 2020. Creating more diverse teams will ensure we develop products, services and a culture that works for all our colleagues and customers. Achieving gender equality is an essential part of this change
At the end of 2014 we agreed a target for our Executive Committee (ExCo) to have >30% women in our top three leadership layers (c.800 roles) by 2020. This target is by business area and not an aggregate, recognising that every part of our organisation needs to change. Targets vary by area, reflecting specific business challenges (e.g. investment v retail), with some areas aiming for well in excess of the minimum 30%. By forming part of ExCo’s common objectives our targets demonstrate how improving gender balance drives our senior leadership pay. Our longer term ambition is to have a fully gender balanced workforce by 2030.
Sponsored by a CEO, we’ve implemented a positive action approach, tailored by business, according to the specific challenges they face. The approach focuses on the key processes, tools and practices that will help us achieve our goal. A key component of this approach is female development.
A combination of employee listening activities (focus groups, listening events, line manager feedback, employee surveys) together with market research, networking externally and a detailed understanding of our own internal demographics confirmed that we needed to introduce development support at all career levels to address the identified progression barriers for women. Working with our Talent, Leadership and Learning teams, we reviewed our existing offerings to identify any which could be tailored to support a female audience and adapted existing programmes to include a female focus. We then identified new interventions specific to female development gaps. These include:
- Sponsorship, mentoring;
- targeted development programmes;
- online tools/frameworks;
- access to external professional organisations through individual memberships
- development offered through our Employee Networks
The outcome is a cost effective (based on cross-organisational demand) development proposition for women at all levels of the organisation. Whilst it’s primary focus is talent (helping to facilitate better ‘pull-through’), it has a number of components which are available to the broader female population e.g. via our on-line learning portal. The approach can also be augmented locally according to specific requirements of each business.
Our proposition has enabled us to provide support, development and networking opportunities to 4x as many women as we’ve ever trained before on an annual basis.
Women who have had support are:
- moving into new roles (14% have been promoted; 20% have moved to a different role)
- telling us they have increased confidence to apply for different roles
- pursuing mentors
- demonstrating enhanced leadership skills
- building stronger networks
Development is one part of our gender plan. To create real change, effort must be applied at all stages of the employee lifecycle. Ensuring we have the right enablers in place and understanding their compound nature is essential to changing our culture. This is why we continue to take more radical action and challenge our risk appetite. This includes: reviewing the design of roles predominately held by men, helping to increase both flexibility and female attraction; proactively identifying talent mobility scenarios, and moving women around the organisation, agreeing to apply the tie break provision where relevant, proactively addressing any gender pay gap, and participating in research to explore the ‘Lean Out’ phenomenon and clearing bottlenecks to create space for new talent.
It’s making a difference:
- We’ve met the Lord Davies requirements
- Our aggregate position (top three layers) has increased by 5% to 34% since end 2014
- Our pipeline (c.5000 roles) has improved from 32% to 44% over the same timeframe
- The Inclusion category in our Employee Opinion Survey improved by 1 point (only engagement category that increased) and the question “we support D&I in the workplace” is 10 points above the Global Financial Services Norm.
- Our women’s employee led network has grown to >12,000 members
- We’re recognised as a `Times Top 50` employer for women, have a Platinum rating with Opportunity Now, been placed in the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index (top 5 globally) and were early adopters of the UK Government’s `Women in Finance Charter`
- We’ve achieved our first investor, Pax Ellevate on the basis of our gender performance.
We recognise that we must sustain and build on this progress. We’ll maintain our focus by continuing to push for change. As opposed to one off initiatives, we’ll continue to facilitate connectivity across our organisation. It’s all part of our journey to becoming a really good bank, where our people are able to bring the best of them to work. That’s how we will ensure we serve our customers well."
Leeds Building Society
We are proud of our colleague engagement, which at 78% is sector leading and is supported by a range of other strong colleague metrics. Looking to the future, we understand we need to attract and retain a talented workforce, capable of delivering our Vision in a fast changing external environment and with changing expectations of what makes an ‘employer of choice’. We believe our optimal workforce is one with a diverse range of skills, experience, backgrounds and opinions.
As such, we became one of the first signatories to the Women in Finance Charter, as we were keen to demonstrate our commitment to gender balance and generate an increased focus on the activities to continually improve in this area.
Improving gender balance and our female talent pipeline is just one element of achieving a diverse workforce. We are proud to be the first financial services organisation to achieve Investors in Diversity accreditation and are now working towards Leaders in Diversity. We believe it is important to consider elements of diversity beyond gender and have committed to develop and agree a broad ranging Diversity Strategy, including the setting of milestones for the achievement of supporting objectives, in 2017. All our executive directors have a diversity objective in their 2017 annual bonus scheme.
Diverse teams are more innovative, productive and outperform homogenous teams. Companies that are more gender diverse are 15% more likely to outperform others; those which are ethnically diverse are 35% more likely to outperform others (McKinsey & Company, 2015) . In short, diversity not only matters, it’s a competitive advantage.
This isn’t the first time you’re hearing this, and companies of all sizes, including Circle, a consumer internet startup that builds software that enables you to make free, instant, and secure digital money transfers regardless of which country you live in or want to send money to, are implementing people programs that drive diversity and inclusion across the organization.
At Circle, we started by combating bias, being intentional about the content that we release in the talent market, and educating our teams on what does and does not influence hiring and people decisions. We’ve started the conversation, operationalized best practices around root causes, and strive to continue to improve upon our people programs to continue to take on the challenge of building diverse and inclusive teams.
Here are some of the challenges we’re working to combat, and the steps we are taking to improve diversity in talent acquisition at Circle.
Educate Teams About Unconscious Bias and the Power of Diversity
Unconscious bias affects everyone, even the most progressive organizations and individuals, leading you to make judgements about people based on key characteristics, including appearance. What’s important is to learn about and be aware of your biases, and challenge them. We’re addressing unconscious bias first by talking about it. Our Co-founders and other team members share in Slack articles around the subject to acknowledge it and educate others to be aware of their bias. We’re also talking about it constantly in hiring by following a structured process and actively challenging assumptions in feedback sessions.
Language Bias in Communication - Job Ads, Job Descriptions
We use two main tools that use data to find language patterns and help us to to create highly effective job descriptions - Texio and Gender Decoder. These tools allow us to remove language bias in our descriptions and increase the number of diverse, qualified applicants for our hiring pipeline.
Structured, Performance-based Interviews & Candidate Assessment
Consistency for Accuracy: When hiring for a role at Circle, we have a structured, performance-based interview process. We outline hiring teams and focus areas that each person is responsible for assessing, and we keep these consistent throughout the lifecycle of the search to ensure accuracy of the data we are collecting across candidates.
Diverse Hiring Teams: The makeup of our hiring teams comes in varying forms of diversity, including but not limited to diversity of knowledge, gender, seniority, ethnicity and socio-economic background. We ensure that candidates will meet a diverse team of Circle employees, which is a benefit for the candidate, and for Circle.
Defined competencies and experiences: Each role we are hiring for has a specific, specialized set of defined competencies and experiences that are necessary to be successful in the role, and those competencies and experiences are what the hiring team interviews on. We take “fit” and describe what it actually means. Each interviewer is responsible for 2-4 of these focus areas, which allows them focus on the few things that matter and probe deeper in these areas. Here are a few examples from varying roles, so you get the idea:
- Objective decision-making
- Builds trusted relationships and aligns expectations
- Creative, the ability to develop and execute innovative strategies to engage high caliber partners
Data Collection and objective decision making: We collect detailed feedback on a scorecard and each team member is responsible for backing up their score/hiring-decision with data. By focusing the team on specific competencies to assess and collecting very specific data in the conversation, we have a more objective and data-driven decision process. It also makes for a better interview experience for the candidate, as they are having varying conversations.
Coaching on inclusion
We provide our managers with tools for training, including recommended articles, podcasts, books and videos that focus on diversity in the workplace. We host meetings to continue to develop conversation around the topic and provide guidance to the women in the workplace, in an inclusive environment. We also have a Slack group dedicated to these topics where everyone shares events, challenges, ideas and videos that lead to action and discussion.
Making strides when it comes to diversity is a focus for us and we are working to improve our numbers everyday. In London, 36% of our team is comprised of women.