With launch of a initiative, Women in Credit, Credit Strategy is tackling the gender diversity issue in credit across multiple sectors.
Kicking off with an awards programme for women who’ve made outstanding contributions to their profession, Women in Credit will in time promote mentoring and networking groups.
How are women faring working in the financial services sector and the credit industry more generally? Is the concept of equal opportunities a reality. And if not, why not? Now in 2018, women (at least over the age of 30!) will have had the vote in the UK for 100 years. So it seems as good a time as any to ask that question.
Any cursory look around at gender diversity in the boardroom and leadership roles in the industry will tell you that progress has happened but… it’s slow. Only seven out of the FTSE 100 companies have female CEOs and only 18 percent of our Credit 500, made up of the most influential people working in credit, are women.
More women work in the financial services sector than men. So there’s a problem. The gender dial in financial services at senior levels has not moved much. This matters for the economy as financial services – the biggest component of job functions within credit – is our highest paid sector, with the widest gender pay gap.
A recent report from the Treasury puts it succinctly: “Our research shows that in 2015 women made up only 14 percent of executive committees in the financial services sector. Too few women get to the top and there is a “permafrost” in the mid-tier where women do not progress or they leave the sector. This is not just about childcare. Women are leaving because the culture isn’t right.”
With nearly two decades of working in our own business as its founder, I’ve wondered about the lack of women working at the top in certain parts of the market, such as commercial finance, leasing and car finance. Attend an event in one of these sectors and it becomes very apparent. That’s when black tie really means black tie. At one FLA annual dinner, it felt like 90 percent of the audience were men. Don’t women buy cars?!
Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised. 100 years of democracy for women is a drop in the ocean compared to the impact of thousands of years of cultural attitudes pitted against women. The list of powerful men accused of sexual harassment after Harvey Weinstein is a case in point. And while #MeToo is a very modern way for the powerless to express their opinion, women in the past have always learned their own ways to respond to an environment that hasn’t been receptive to them to be who they really are - women.
No one can argue that fairness, equality and inclusion is morally right. The government is so concerned it has set up a Women in Finance charter through the Treasury that has been focussing on the issue of diversity in financial services for more than a year and has the progression of women into senior roles as its key aim.
Some interesting differences of opinion between younger women and older women have emerged. Virgin Money’s chief executive Jayne-Anne Gadhia, who is leading the charter, said: “We asked people if gender targets would make things better. Younger people, especially women, do not want positive discrimination. They want simply to be valued for themselves.
“However, we found that as women get older – and particularly when they reach their 50s and realise that nothing fundamental has changed since they started their careers – their views change. Mine certainly did. Women get to a point where they say, “let’s do it”. And then they realise that if they want to see meaningful change in gender equality, businesses need to measure it; because what gets measured gets done.”
So what’s all this got to do with credit? Here at Credit Strategy we think it’s time for us to address gender diversity in all its manifestations in our sector and to do this we are launching a new brand called Women in Credit.
No, it’s not some sort of lunch club for rich women. We want it to be a platform to discuss a range of issues that have gender diversity in the workplace at its heart. From women’s representation at every level in business to differences in leadership styles, we think there is an outlet needed to look at ways of addressing these and many other concerns for the wider good of women, men, and the industry.
We kick off by launching an awards programme which will take place during Credit Week in March this year called, yes, you’ve guessed it, Women in Credit Awards. It has a noble aim, to highlight some of the excellent work and achievements of women in our industry - not just at the very top but also those newer to the industry, or who show superb collaborative skills that help their teams thrive and succeed.
We are grateful to have received support for the brand from a sterling judging panel comprising CEOs and specialists across all parts of our industry. The entry process is simple and there are a wide variety of categories to suit every level.
During Credit Week, we also intend to host a debate at the Credit Summit to discuss how women are faring in credit, where there are particular issues of concern and what we can do to improve our lot.
We have additional plans to develop the Women in Credit brand into a series of networking events to help women build more contacts to achieve their aims and a mentoring group to do likewise.
Get in touch if you have ideas, thoughts or stories of your own you would like to share with us to help build this brand to serve you best: firstname.lastname@example.org