Anne Whitaker, chair of the audit and risk committee at Hitachi Capital UK, spoke to Credit Strategy about gender diversity and why Hitachi are sponsoring the Women in Credit Awards.
CS: Can you tell us if you think there is a gender diversity problem in the financial services sector and why you think this is?
AW: “I think there is a lack of senior women across the financial services sector – just as there is in other professional industries. Having a diverse workforce across all levels of a business means that, when strategic questions are being discussed about businesses and their development, the voices at the table can fully appreciate the views of all their stakeholders including, crucially, their customers and their employees.”
CS: Do you think women have a particular leadership style to offer, or do you think we just need more female faces in the industry?
AW: “Just as with men, there are many different leadership styles among women. It’s important to have a diverse range of styles within leadership, irrespective of gender. However, if only one gender is properly represented in management, it inherently reduces the diversity of styles, and therefore the effectiveness overall of the leadership team. A mixture of views and opinions provides a greater, holistic business perspective, which is only a good thing when key decisions are being made.”
CS: What would it take for executive boards in this industry to become more representative of both women and men?
AW: “There are a number of ways that will help us move towards more representative boards. Firstly, across all sectors of business, individuals must be given positive encouragement to achieve their goals and potential. This is no different in financial services, and I would urge businesses to show belief, offer support, promote role models, provide development opportunities, and deliver the appropriate training to all its employees. Doing this will ensure both women and men are suitably equipped to reach executive board level.”
CS: In any way, shape or form, have you experienced any gender bias against women in your career?
AW: “I have experienced gender bias against women in my career. In my experience, it has shown itself as a lack of encouragement and belief in women, and as a lack of flexibility to work with people in a different way. Whether female or male, employees should always be supported by employers to help with career progression and ways of working.”
CS: What do you hope for the Women in Credit brand to achieve?
AW: “Lack of senior, female role models is one of the biggest barriers in encouraging more women into business, so I hope Women in Credit emboldens women to consider the credit industry as a possible career path. There are already many exceptional women that work in the credit industry and this is a great way of highlighting these people, and inspiring others to be achieve success.”
A representative from Hitachi also features on the Women in Credit steering committee. Speaking on his reasons for joining the initiative, Andrew Slatford, director of credit risk at the company, said: “Equality in the workplace continues to be a topic that draws a lot of attention. Nowhere is this felt more acutely than in the financial services sector, where the ratio of men and women employed, as well as their salaries, continues to be an important and hot topic of debate.
“Celebrating successful and inspirational women in our industry is an incredibly important driver to achieving gender parity. This, of course, just scratches the surface of a much broader issue, but by highlighting the achievements of leading female figures we can encourage other women to consider starting or furthering their career in credit or financial services as a whole.
“Lack of senior, female role models is one of the biggest barriers in encouraging more women into business – so we are incredibly proud to sponsor these awards and shine a light on the industry-leading work being done by these individuals.”
Slatford said Hitachi, as a company, is aware of the role it needs to play to not only encourage more women into the sector, but to also keep them.
He said: “By sponsoring the Woman of the Year category at the Women in Credit Awards 2018, we are voicing our commitment to support all women in this sector – not just those collecting an award.
“Hitachi Capital UK is a proud sponsor of these awards - congratulations to all those nominated!”
The Woman in Credit Awards is the first event in Credit Strategy’s new initiative to tackle gender diversity issues.
The awards programme, hosted on March 15 during Credit Week, has a noble aim to highlight some of the excellent work and achievements of women in the credit industry.
The shortlist for the awards can be found here.