Better together: personal experiences to highlight some of the ways businesses are working to boost diversity and inclusion within the workplace 

by | Mar 8, 2024

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As we celebrate the role of women in finance this International Women’s Day, it’s clear that a multi-lateral approach is needed if we are to truly create the thriving, dynamic financial services sector with equity at its core which everyone involved can be proud of. 

The leadership role of business in driving change is a crucial one and cannot be overlooked. So how are businesses grasping the mantle and creating change from the inside? We’ve asked many of the inspirational women working in financial services to give us some examples of what’s working within their workplaces and also what practical moves they think would help boost gender diversity as follows: 

Rose St Louis is a Protection Director for Lloyds Banking Group said: “At LBG, we proudly co-sponsor the FTSE Women Leaders review, alongside KPMG, and welcome their target to achieve a minimum of 40% women on Boards and in Leadership teams. LBG has achieved all the FTSE Women Leaders recommendations two years ahead of the 2025 target date (40%+ women on the Board, 40%+ women in Leadership and at least one woman in one of the four key roles on the Board). 

 
 

“Our aim is for half of senior leadership roles to be held by women by 2025. One of the ways we’ll achieve that is through nurturing and developing the talent we already have. 

“We have a Returners programme for professionals who have been on a career break for 18 months or more. It enables them to pick up their career again in a role that matches their skills and experience. Most returners are women (90%), and 60% are Black Asian or Minority Ethnic. 

“Our recruitment and flexibility for all initiatives aim to identify as many talented women from the candidate pool as possible, as well as retaining them when they join with a choice of flexible working options for different circumstances.” 

 
 

Equity Research Analyst at PIMCO ,Tania Bachmann, certainly sees progress being made however she believes the need to embrace and boost diversity of thought as well as diversity and inclusion is particularly important in asset management commenting: “Firms across the industry are embracing diversity initiatives more and more and I have seen progress in the seven years I have been in finance. But, for me, the main impact has been to broaden diversity of thought, which is crucial for asset managers in particular. 

“In our work at PIMCO we brainstorm what our outlook should be, as well as the tail risks and threats to that view – we need to think about many potential scenarios. Different perspectives can really help to challenge conventional views, introduce original ideas, and create the right mix for us to produce our best work. It is not only about adding female voices to the mix, but diversity of all backgrounds and views. 

“While the benefits from diversity of thought are obvious in every industry, for asset managers like PIMCO I think it matters even more.” 

 
 

Jennifer Ollerenshaw, Head of Wealth Planning UK at Lombard Odier outlines some of her observations of the industry but also why she feels there is still further to go on the road to equality commenting: 

“It’s incredibly important to have female representation in the wealth management industry; diversity brings different perspectives and views to the table, and enables more rounded conversations to be had. Women and men often have a tendency to think differently; neither is right or wrong, but it’s the ability to consider these different points of view together that can lead to the best outcomes for clients and for businesses. 

“Female representation has increased across the industry, particularly in the last decade, but it’s still the case that most senior leadership roles are dominated by men. This isn’t down to one particular factor but is likely a combination of various factors: barrier to entry into the industry or for promotion (either actual barriers or perceived), fewer female mentors and role models, balancing family life and work, and also confidence. 

 
 

“However, the industry is actively engaging and taking steps to improve the situation. At Lombard Odier, for example, we launched our Women’s Leadership Programme in 2017, which offers groups of female employees the opportunity to attend a unique programme designed to help them become great leaders, to grow self-acceptance, self-management and self-development. We also undertake an equal pay analysis each year, which examines the root causes of any unexplained gaps and addresses them where appropriate, and our Human Resources department also ensures that the number of employees receiving promotions each year is as representative as possible in terms of gender diversity.” 

Rupi Bahra, Head of Strategic Accounts and Implementation at MetLife UK: “MetLife has taken multiple steps towards building a more inclusive and purpose driven culture that empowers everyone to make a difference at work and in our communities, as championing inclusion is built into our strategic priorities, our key pillars and our principles. While I belong to the UK Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) committee, the Global Women’s Business Network, and WIse committee; there are a number of committees and networks you can join on global level or on a country level. 

“There is also an ongoing commitment at MetLife to continue to invest in women by building this into our focus areas: leadership, workforce, marketplace, and community and sustainability. This provides inclusive leadership development and offers women a variety of career support programs, peer-to-peer mentoring groups and networking programmes.” Laura Grenier, director of operations at WHEB Asset Management said: “Taking positive steps within the business to encourage flexible working and support working mothers and fathers are essential to ensuring that women’s careers do not have to pause/break in order to care for children. And to recognise that business travel/networking events may be more difficult for the primary carer in a household (be that the mother or the father) and being aware of the impact that this might have on career progression opportunities.” 

 
 

Louise Hoare, HR Business Partner, Defaqto said: “At Defaqto, we are passionate about building an environment and experience that allows all our people to thrive and are constantly looking for ways in which to enable this. Last year, to encourage everyone to feel empowered to make a meaningful difference, we launched our Better Together forum, which is dedicated to breaking down barriers, changing perceptions and supporting initiatives that promote equity, diversity, and inclusion across the business.” 

Donna Bourne, financial planner at Bourne Financial Options, believes in proactivity at all levels as she comments: “While some aspects of gender equality, such as equal pay and flexible work policies, do not apply to my self-employed status, there are other areas that do. 

“Feeling safe in my workplace is important. As a female, I appreciate the supportive and respectful environment that surrounds me, where I receive the guidance I need. 

 
 

“I strongly believe that more women should be encouraged to join the financial services industry and not be deterred by its historical male dominance. It’s up to us to change this dynamic by taking proactive steps forward.” 

Sandhuni Correa, management accountant at WHEB Asset Management said: “Most women are likely to start a family part way through their working life. It is important that employers give them the flexibility that they need in order to fulfil their roles as employees and mothers effectively. This can be by way of offering part time work, flexible hours and equal pay for the same work. This will encourage individuals to perform to the best of their ability.”

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