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Top 100 women in financial services provide action plan for gender diversity

Top 100 women in financial services provide action plan for gender diversity

Odgers Berndtson study of over 100 senior women in financial services highlights lack of diversity
Senior female executives outline recommendations for enacting real change

Odgers Berndtson, the UK's leading executive search firm, in conjunction with Muika Leadership, today releases the results of their first study of gender diversity in the UK financial services sector. The report, entitled Past perspectives future change: a study into the experiences of senior women in financial services, shows that despite clear business benefits of diversity and an abundance of policies aimed at increasing the proportion of senior women, financial services remains a disproportionately challenging industry for women to reach top positions.

The report is divided into two sections the first provides a fascinating and candid first-hand account of the experiences of women who have achieved senior positions in the industry the second includes practical recommendations from those interviewed on how companies can break down the barriers preventing many women from rising to the most senior roles.

Key observations from women who have achieved senior positions in financial services include:
Successful people do not hesitate to seize opportunities as they arise

Women who achieve senior roles are called to exhibit a level of competence in excess of their male peers in essence women think they have to work harder than men to get on

The issue of practical support for working women remains fundamentally challenging. Among the most successful senior women, a supportive partner is common frequently one who manages the home
Reintegrating into the business after maternity leave is seen as a particularly difficult time to maintain career momentum

The endorsement and support of sponsors is essential in getting ahead. Most women have to rely on male sponsors as senior women are few and far between

Elements of financial services have a macho culture. Women who have excelled have learned to adapt to succeed

These findings emphasise that while there are now numerous policies and processes in place to promote diversity in the sector, they have yet to make the desired impact.

The report also includes key recommendations from senior female executives for establishing demonstrable, quantifiable results. These include:

Leadership from the top is essential - appointing a specific board member for monitoring and evaluating diversity ensures an accountability framework

Diversity should be identified as a business imperative. If not, efforts in this area will simply be regarded as lip service. Linking financial incentive to diversity achievements is one way to deliver results
Companies need to include male gender diversity champions to ensure the topic remains a broad business priority and is not marginalised

The development of junior female talent should be re-visited providing exposure to senior management and more opportunities for networking
Flexibility is key. Policies and cultures need to permit and promote flexible working arrangements.

On Monday 21st March, Nomura will host a reception at their offices to launch the report.

Jenny Knott, Chief Executive of Standard Bank will be a guest speaker at the event which will be attended by senior men and women from across the industry.

Baroness Virginia Bottomley, Chair of Odgers Berndtsons international Board practice, said: While significant strides have been made to encourage greater female participation at senior levels, this study demonstrates that the financial services sector still has a long way to go. Odgers Berndtson has consistently encouraged greater diversity at board level and wholly supports the need to introduce firm, accountable frameworks to address this critical business issue. Women will control 60% of the UKs private wealth by 2025, globally they are responsible for 13 trillion in consumer spending. Organisations will suffer unless they fully exploit the female talent in their midst.

Mui Li, Director of Muika Leadership, whose company worked in conjunction with Odgers Berndtson on the research adds: The feedback these women have provided is invaluable to companies which wish to make real changes in the way they recruit, develop and promote female talent. Attracting top talent to financial services is not a gender issue, but a matter of best business principles and practice.

Nomura Chief Executive Offer of Europe, Middle East and Africa John Phizackerley said: Nomura continues to embed diversity and inclusion into the way we do business. We have already made significant strides, and we will continue to focus on this important business agenda. The clear and practical recommendations within this research are consistent with our strategy, and will help to move this important issue forward.

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