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More senior women needed in the financial services industry

More senior women needed in the financial services industry

Women have been in financial services a long time, but there is still much more to do to get them to a senior level, according to senior women in the industry.

According to the 30% Club – the initiative set up by Dame Helena Morrissey to bring about better representation of women in British companies – women currently make up 27 per cent of board membership on FTSE 350 companies and 27 per cent at executive committee level at FTSE 100 businesses.

Some of these companies are in the financial services sector: Women make up 30 per cent of the executive committees at Standard Life Aberdeen, Aviva, Lloyds Banking Group, RBS, Legal & General and Brewin Dolphin.

Others such as Hargreaves Lansdown, St James’s Place Wealth Management and RSA Insurance Group have all signed up to the commitment to get 30 per cent of their executive committee consisting of women.

There are many initiatives to encourage a pipeline of women into the industry, but according to some of the female figureheads in financial services, to get to the top is as much about personality as anything else.

Leadership stereotypes

Tulsi Naidu, who was appointed chief executive of Zurich UK two years ago, says women who have got to senior level have pretty much had to forge their own work identity as there are few “stereotypes” that create an image of a woman being at the top.

She explains: “I think the more senior women who have made it through are very resilient; you are in a minority and you are different.

“You have to be more entrepreneurial and have to make much more of the running.

“I don’t think it’s trying harder. The stereotypes of what leadership looks like, it’s typically more likely to be men. Senior women who have made a career – almost by definition – don’t fit with those stereotypes, and there aren’t enough women to make those stereotypes.

“They’re forging their own path.”

The 30% Club, which has chapters around the world, says this is important because diversity in companies makes a huge difference to the culture of a company, and helps it to make better decisions.

A spokeswoman for the 30% Club says initially the focus was on 30 per cent of FTSE 100 boards being made up of women, but many female non-executive directors were appointed.

She says: “Diverse boards make better decisions, but [changing non-executives] is an easier decision to make.

“What really makes a difference to the culture of a company is when the actual operational management is more diverse, and that’s what we spend most of our time focusing on.”

Certainly Anna Stupnytska, head of global and macro investment strategy at Fidelity International, and an active spokesperson for women in the workplace, says that she tends to come to different conclusions than her – many – male colleagues, although that might be by virtue of having a different social background to them, rather than just because of gender.

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