#IWD2022: Church House IM’s Emma Parkes believes that when it comes to financial services, ‘if you can can see it, you can be it”

by | Mar 9, 2022

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As part of our celebration of International Women’s Day (#IWD2022), Emma Parkes (pictured), a relationship manager at Church House Investment Management tells us of her experience working as a woman in finance and why evidence supports the principle of diversity and inclusion in bringing benefits for all

Having started my career in real estate, I moved into the world of finance in 2010. Since then there has been a noticeable shift in the environment for women. When thinking about this question I wondered what the figures would say in terms of women working in the sector, and in particular, working in senior roles. I turned to the HM Treasury Women in Finance Charter (HM Treasury Women in Finance Charter in March 2016 ) for some facts and figures. This was launched in 2016 to encourage the financial services industry to improve gender balance in senior management. The Charter now has more than 400 signatories covering 950,000 employees across the sector.

The 5 year review shows a positive change in senior female representation. There has been a significant step forward in the proportion of women on both boards and executive committees over the past five years across all financial services sectors. Excos have increased from 14% in 2016 to 22% on average in 2021, while boards have increased from 23% to 32% . The increase for excos is nearly 60%, for boards it is nearly 40%. What is even more encouraging is that according to a study carried out by Deloitte In 2021, the proportion of women in leadership roles within financial services firms is projected to grow to 28% by 2030, however this is of course still below par.

 

The impact of having more women in senior roles, is that it creates an environment conducive to encouraging new female talent, and not only that, but nurturing the talent that is already there. Twelve years ago when I started working for a global bank, there was a handful of women in team leader roles, let alone in more senior positions. Now that picture looks very different and an exciting landscape it is too. The old mantra of “if you can see it, you can be it” rings true and I hope that at some stage soon, we will not have a need for gender diversity commentary at all. Until then however, we must do all we can to shine a light on the importance of a representative workplace filled with talent, both male and female.

I would strongly encourage more women to join our profession. A career in financial services is meaningful and offers the chance to make a real difference to people’s lives. There are many branches of this sector to explore, and it is important that you find the one that suits you best; this will likely be the one from which you gain the most enjoyment and thus satisfaction. Get as much work experience as you can and talk to as many people in the industry as possible to broaden your knowledge of what is out there. Be brave, be kind and be resilient. Never give up!

For businesses in general, diversity is key. We need role models of all shapes and sizes. Without more women paving the way, those entering the financial services field may find the path more challenging to navigate or may not even know there is one. Diversity and inclusiveness are now competitive imperatives within an evolving financial services marketplace; investors want it, boards want it and clients demand it. Businesses are looking to broaden their talent pool and attract people with fresh ideas and experiences.

 

In a recent study by PWC, it was found that there were numerous benefits to embracing diversity including, but not limited to, enhanced business performance, strengthening of brand and reputation, innovation, enhanced customer satisfaction and collaboration.

There is strong evidence of the multiplier effect in financial services firms. It is said that for each woman added to the C-suite, three more women are added to senior leadership. The 2021 Deloitte’s Women in the boardroom study shows, firms with women in the C-suite have almost double the number of women board members than those that do not.

I firmly believe that financial services firms need to take intentional, strategic actions in areas such as recruitment, retention, succession planning, and return-to-office work arrangements. In no small part thanks to Covid, plans to use hybrid work models, which include more flexibility and remote work options, are becoming commonplace as a key component of workplace strategies. Hybrid models can benefit all employees, but leaders should thoughtfully and deliberately design them to advance—not deter—women’s career growth opportunities.

 

We are moving toward a higher bottom line—where people, both male and female, are valued as much as profits, and the bottom line is no longer just a financial figure.

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