Director, Financial Services Ireland
Every firm wants to understand its customers’ expectations and desires. To do so, it helps if the workforce is reflective of the society in which it operates.
Financial services, like many industries, have historically been male-dominated. That has begun to change, but there is still further progress to be made. The industry recognises this, and that is why the Women in Finance Charter has been developed.
Measuring progress in gender diversity
The Charter is a voluntary initiative for financial services firms operating in Ireland, where signatories commit to setting targets for increasing female representation. Progress is monitored each year by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), which released its first annual report on the Charter last summer.
The figures were encouraging. In 2022, among the signatories, female representation on boards increased to 37%, up from 32% the prior year. On executive committees, the figure increased to 35%, up from 32% the prior year.
In 2022, among the signatories, female
representation on boards increased
to 37%, up from 32% the prior year.
Gender balance factors and barriers
The report also provided valuable insights on the measures that firms found most effective for increasing female representation. Respondents were asked to choose the three actions they had found most effective for increasing gender balance. ‘Improved flexible working options’ was the most commonly identified, chosen by 52% of respondents. ‘Examining gender balance in succession planning’ was chosen by 49% while 46% chose ‘identifying female leaders.’
In interviews with the ESRI, firms highlighted the importance of senior management ownership of equality objectives and provided examples of effective initiatives, including mentoring programmes, wider information-gathering and employee consultation.
When it came to barriers to improving gender balance, the most commonly identified barrier was firms having a low number of female applicants. Almost two-thirds (63%) identified this as among the main barriers. Low turnover in senior management was cited by 56%.
Growing movement to promote change
More firms are continuing to sign the Charter, with the number of signatories now at 80. The number of employees across these firms is more than 55,000 — approximately half the number of employees working in financial services.
Fundamentally, initiatives that increase the attractiveness of financial services to female entrants benefit all firms. Expanding the talent pool to which firms have access will help to deliver the best outcomes at the company level and for society. Financial Services Ireland and its member firms will continue to work to increase female representation across the industry.