According to research from think tank New Financial assessing the impact of five years of the HM Treasury Women in Finance Charter, female representation on boards gone up from 23 per cent in 2016 to 32 per cent in 2021across a sample of over 200 financial services firms.
It also found that female representation on executive committees has increased from 14 per cent to 22 per cent.
For charter signatories in the sample, average representation was higher, reaching 26 per cent for executives and 35 per cent for boards.
New Financial’s report, the HM Treasury Women in Finance Charter: Five Year Review, was produced in collaboration with HM Treasury, supported by Aviva, Virgin Money, Refinitiv and City of London Corporation.
The report looks over the five years since the launch of the charter to assess its achievements and review the changes.
Yasmine Chinwala OBE, partner at New Financial and co-author of the report, said: “The five year mark is an opportunity to take stock of the progress of the Women in Finance Charter.
"While female representation is moving in the right direction, there is still a long way to go."
In March 2016, the UK government launched the HM Treasury Women in Finance Charter to encourage the financial services industry to improve gender balance in senior management.
It commits signatories to four actions, which include linking the remuneration packages of their executive teams to gender diversity targets, setting internal targets for gender diversity in their senior management and appointing a senior executive responsible for gender diversity and inclusion.
At the time, 60 per cent of a total of 72 firms who signed the charter had committed to having at least 30 per cent of women in senior roles by 2021.
The charter now has more than 400 signatories covering 950,000 employees across the sector.
Impact has been measured in three areas: whether there are now more women in the most senior decision-making roles across the financial services industry; how the charter has influenced signatories’ approaches to improving female representation; how the charter has informed and inspired the wider diversity and inclusion agenda.
The review found nearly all signatories surveyed (97 per cent) said their agenda to improve female representation had advanced over the past five years, and only a fifth (21 per cent) believed they would have advanced to the same degree without being a charter signatory.
At the current rate of increase, New Financial said its sample would on average reach parity on executives in 2033 and on boards in 2029.
Chinwala said: “The five big wins for the first five years of the charter have been building a deep and wide signatory base, normalising the use of diversity targets, increasing female representation at senior levels, driving a shift in how diversity is viewed as a business issue, and ensuring gender diversity is a regular agenda item for excos and boards.
“If the industry is to maintain the pace of change in the next half decade, it will have to take on the tougher challenges."
She added: “The next areas of focus are shifting from recruitment activity to building a sustainable pipeline of female talent, cascading accountability from the top throughout the organisation, developing more women in revenue-generating roles and pushing the ambition of targets towards the ultimate charter aim of parity.”
Commenting on the report, MP John Glen MP, economic secretary to the Treasury, said: “Over the last five years, the government has committed to achieving gender balance across all levels of financial services firms. During the last year, I have met with some of our Charter signatories to discuss progress and have been hugely impressed by their often-trailblazing efforts.
“As we look to build back better, I encourage firms to remain accountable for their progress and to commit to tangible action to improve the diversity of the sector.”
The five rear review was launched at a virtual event hosted by New Financial, with speakers including Glen, Gwyneth Nurse, director of financial services, HM Treasury and Amanda Blanc, group chief executive of Aviva and the Government Women in Finance Champion.
Blanc said: “This five year review makes clear the progress we have made but as it also makes clear, our work has only just begun.
“Over the next five years, we need to move from talk to action, from working in isolation to working together, and move from a narrow perception of gender diversity to encompass women from every walk of life and every part of society. That won’t be easy and it is every signatory’s responsibility to make it happen – but that is why the Charter exists.”
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