My favourite news story earlier this month came into my inbox from Money Marketing. The headline read: “Treasury pushes for gender diversity interventions after ‘slow’ progress.” Maybe it is because I am a female who has worked in financial services for over 35 years that the news resonated.
Economic secretary to the Treasury John Glen spoke at the recent Pimfa Wealth of Diversity Conference 2019 about the developments of the Women in Finance Charter, which was launched by the government in 2016. It has been signed by 300 financial services firms employing 78,000 people.
Disappointing, considering there are 1.1 million financial services jobs in the UK.
Glen said: “It is clear that evidence-based interventions to bring about a step change are needed, as progress is slow.” I applaud this. We must try harder to end gender disparity in financial services.
Over the past few months, I have been visiting product and service providers to talk about diversity and inclusion. Embracing diversity means appreciating the value of differences in age, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, education and socio-economic background.
Management consultant McKinsey has found that gender-diverse companies are 15 per cent more likely to outperform, and ethnically diverse companies are 35 per cent more likely to outperform.
Deloitte says diversity and inclusion has become a chief executive-level issue. The digital organisations of today thrive on empowerment, open dialogue and inclusive working styles.
Leading firms now see diversity and inclusion as a comprehensive strategy woven into every aspect of the talent life-cycle to enhance employee engagement, drive performance and improve brands. That said, the providers I meet with are not doing enough with their brands to benefit from the increased new business they could see if they were to become fully diverse and inclusive.
I would like to see product providers try to ensure the 100-plus brain differences between males and females are addressed.
Financial communications are quite rightly highly regulated, needing to be FCA-, Mifid II- and GDPR-compliant. But if providers moved away from middle-aged male-orientated marketing and communications, the protection gap and the underfunding of retirement would inevitably be reduced.
Why does marketing remain so male-orientated, with themes like jousting and shooting, and showing all white, male, ageing fund managers? Is it because of the old-fashioned view that a male will be looking after the female’s finances?
We know that most of the private wealth that changes hands in the coming decades is likely to go to women and that gender inequality in financial wealth is narrowing.
Now is the time to modernise UK financial services and shake off the white male dominance in marketing campaigns.
Kim North is managing director at Technology & Technical