Jackie Leiper is CEO at the platform technology provider, Embark Group. In this blog to celebrate International Women’s Day, Jackie tells us why she feels it is so important to support more women to have successful careers in financial services. She also explains why Embark has recently renewed its partnership with Women in Asset Servicing (WiAS) after two fruitful years together and to set up their new Mentor Matching initiative – bringing practical ways to creating real gender equity in financial services.
International Women’s Day is a chance for the financial services industry to reflect on what is working and what isn’t for the women employed in firms not just across the City of London but around the UK and the world. We’ve come a long way: just a few decades ago women were largely restricted to secretarial or administration work, now women comprise nearly 50% of the workforce. However, persistent issues remain, not least in terms of women filling more senior leadership roles.
Last year, a study by Deloitte found that women made up just 19% of C-suite roles. While this represents an improvement on recent years, progress is still painfully incremental. Clearly, there is still much work to be done to foster meaningful gender equity. To achieve improvement, we need to seek practical solutions now, while continuing to bake in longer-term changes to industry culture.
Lack of equity is an issue that affects women across our industry, and one that has a personal dimension for me as well. It is a privilege to serve as Embark Group’s CEO, one that I do not take lightly. However, I am sadly in the minority. According to a report published last year by The Pipeline, there are currently more male CEOs named John in the FTSE 250 than there are female CEOs. This shocking fact is not due to a lack of female talent, but is the failure to provide opportunity to the thousands of highly skilled and capable women working in financial services.
At Embark, we believe that equity has to be supported from the top down with those in leadership positions actively working to empower women to get the most out of their careers. It is with this in mind that we partnered with Women in Asset Servicing (WiAS) to set up their new Mentor Matching initiative. Building on the fantastic results of the Speed Mentoring event ran last year, the initiative connects women with expert mentors, delivering outcomes-based guidance through quickfire sessions either virtually or face-to-face. It’s been amazing to see how many senior staff at Embark have signed up to provide mentorship, working alongside other industry experts to help women achieve their career goals.
WiAS is a fantastic organisation, and it is networking groups like these that can provide practical support in achieving real gender equity in financial services. We were delighted to announce recently that we are renewing our partnership with the group to continue to build on the foundations we’ve laid over the last few years.
Despite the brilliant work of groups like WiAS, there needs to be a broader, industry-wide push to build an enduring culture of inclusion if we are to achieve equity. While independent groups have a vital role to play, there has to be recognition from employers that they need to do more in delivering equity for women. In-house programmes and initiatives actively working on building frameworks for gender equity need to be in place in every firm in the financial services industry.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we should celebrate the progress that has been made in bringing meaningful gender equity to the workplace. But there is still so much work to be done if we are to ensure that women and girls are supported in building careers on equal terms to men. If we can lead the way, we can show the world that financial services is a sector where talent is the only arbiter of success.
About Jackie Leiper
Jackie has over 25 years’ experience in the financial services industry, with specialism in life and pensions, and a focus on leading customer and client facing teams. She joined Lloyds Banking Group in 2010 and carried out a number of leadership roles before becoming Pensions, Stockbroking & Distribution Director at Scottish Widows in 2018, where she is responsible for pension proposition development, distribution of Scottish Widows flagship pensions and protection products, and the Halifax Share dealing business. In addition to this, Jackie became CEO of Embark Group following the acquisition by Lloyds Banking Group in January 2022’.