While it was disappointing not to be able to meet all of our shortlisted candidates in person at a champagne reception and awards evening, it has been a humbling and encouraging process to read though all the case studies submitted by financial services companies and individuals.
Every winner, highly-commended runner up and shortlisted candidate and company encouraged the judges by their dedication to championing various and, in some cases, multiple causes to improve diversity and inclusion in their workplaces, the overall organisation and their local community.
But, as our guest speaker and fellow panellists explained in our online awards webinar on September 2, more needs to be done across financial services to make the industry truly reflective of the society it serves.
Ms Sheila Ochugboju, international development specialist and founder of media consultancy Africa Knows, was the keynote speaker at the DIFA 2020.
She said: “It’s important to recognise that today, in 2020, there are still many bridges to cross – and we must cross them. We have a duty to future generations who are looking to us to provide better foundations for them to build on.”
Ms Ochugboju said the FTAdviser DIFAs were important in showcasing the “power of finance” to transform lives, explaining how a more tech-based, entrepreneurial spirit among financial providers was helping to democratise savings and empowerment in some of the most impoverished countries in the world, and this spirit could be brought to bear in the UK to make sure nobody was left behind.
She said: “In the work that I’ve been doing in sub-Saharan Africa, I’ve recognised the extraordinary capacity of innovative financial solutions such as fintech, impact investing and new digital platforms, to open doors for those historically excluded from financial systems.
“They can create new opportunities for young entrepreneurs to do more than they could ever imagine. Finance is really a critical catalyst for change; financial industries empower societies in so many ways, from raising individual capacities and self-esteem, to connecting hard-to-reach communities to the world.”
How finance can continue this work
Ms Ochugboju said it was imperative that companies continued to improve support of female-led businesses better in the post-Covid recovery period, especially as the World Economic Forum has forecast that women will fall “first in the crater of lost incomes, wealth and opportunities”.
Quoting the Foreign Policy Analytics 2020 report, Women as Levers of Change, she added companies that improved gender diversity not only improved their governance and performance metrics but also their environmental credentials.