As part of our series of articles shining a spotlight on women in finance to celebrate International Women’s Day (#IWD2022), Kirsty Anderson (pictured), pension business development manager at Pru, tells us about why she believes there’s been a significant shift in the gender breakdown in financial services these last few years. She also highlights a few practical steps to help steer the thinking within financial services businesses to encourage more women into leadership roles. Over to you Kirsty!
“In so many ways, I have seen the environment change for women in finance since I first started my career. Back in 1999 it was a male dominated environment and to be respected. I felt I had to work harder, be better, know more than my male counterparts. Now, not only have I seen an increase in the number of women in finance but often they’re leading the way. I do a fair amount of public speaking and it wouldn’t be uncommon for me to be the only female presenter at a full-day conference with maybe six or seven other presenters with a handful of women in the audience. I wouldn’t say we’ve reached parity, but I have certainly witnessed a significant shift in the last few years with more female delegates attending events and, quite often, the majority of speakers and experts being women. But there is still much more to be done.
“The world of finance affects us all and as a consumer, I want to be able to trust the person I am speaking to. Who better to do this than someone you can relate to, who has had the same or similar challenges you’ve experienced. More of us are earning more and are quite often the main earner in our family unit, so understanding our options and how we can plan I think is important. My genuine advice would be to be authentic. Whether you’re advising clients, supporting customers, developing products and / or services or updating regulation, people relate to people. Yes, we operate in a heavily regulated environment and there are lots of, often complicated, considerations – but having the ability to break that down and help others understand them, I believe, is invaluable.
“This is why diversity and inclusion are so important, so young women are able to seek career advice comfortably in financial services. This is a huge area of importance for M&G plc as we believe that an inclusive culture is critical to the success of our business. In fact, diversity and inclusion is one of two strategic priorities (the other being climate change) we identify as being particularly important for the environment, society and our long-term sustainability as a business. For me, this links back to the fact that people relate to people. Different perspectives can only enhance our business – both as a place to work and how we engage with customers.
“Our industry needs more females in leadership roles. Not only will this help inspire future leaders, but it will also ensure our industry retains female talent. There are a few steps we can take to dismantle the systematic infrastructure within Financial Services.
- We can start by listening to the needs of staff and allowing flexibility in how we approach work. Having the ability to flex your working pattern can be hugely beneficial for those of us who have families, for example.
- Make sure that women are represented at all levels of a business – for example, at M&G, we have a goal of 40% women in senior leadership roles by 2025.
- Treat everyone fairly – we know there is a gender gap when it comes to pay and that carries over into savings – both short and long term. Ensure that the culture is one of fairness and equal opportunity.
“Although I have seen a marked improvement, the industry needs to go a lot further in accommodating and creating environments where women can excel. We need to reach a point where there are no barriers for women to progress past the glass ceiling.”