Submitted by Sestini & Co
| on Wed, 07/13/2022 - 14:23 | In HMRC
Sestini & Co were one of the first signatories of the Women in Finance Charter when it started in 2016 and were pleased to see the growth of the initiative as reported at this year’s annual review, the fifth since the Charter started.
This year’s event was chaired by Yasmine Chinwala, OBE, Partner at New Financial.
John Glen MP, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, was the first to speak, noting that the Charter had been in existence for 6 years, now has around 400 firms signed up, covering almost a million employees. Just two years ago there were only 187 signatories.
He acknowledged that change can be non-linear and highlighted the dedication and progress made by participants.
In terms of progress over the last year, a third of signatories have met their targets and 41% were on track to do so. Fewer targets were missed this year than last and of the 32 that missed their targets, 25 were very close to meeting them.
Jenny Barrow, Senior Adviser at New Financial, observed that with 209 signatories and five years’ worth of data, the data in the 2021 Annual Review now gives a good overview of how companies are executing the Charter’s principles.
Improving gender diversity
Jenny noted that there’d been a 34% decrease in female representation, the highest since the Charter began. In practice, this means that the average female representation had remained the same at 33%. This means there has only been a 1% increase every year since the Charter’s inception in 2016. Some of the reasons noted for this were Covid, low targets to begin with – a focus on meeting rather than exceeding targets, a drop off in recruitment, and a low turnover in senior management.
Jenny added that she felt there could be a disconnect between how signatories think they’re doing and how they’re actually doing.
Actions to support targets
Recruitment was seen as a top priority.
Other priorities included:
- D&I training
- Female leadership programmes.
2021 saw 59% of firms publishing an annual progress on their websites. Publishing progress is the only Charter principle that hasn’t consistently improved over the last 5 years. Transparency is a key part of the Charter, and the Treasury will remove signatories who don’t publish updates on time.
Gwyneth Nurse, director general of financial services at the Treasury, also expressed concern at the drop in female representation but also focused on the ambition shown towards increasing challenging targets. Accountability is key and non-compliance is taken seriously.
Alanna Barber, Deputy Director, Banking and Credit at HM Treasury, said that whilst there is a lot of change happening in the world, gender diversity shouldn’t be seen as an add-on and was an integral thing. Times of change offer an opportunity to switch things up. She felt openness about targets was important to inform discussion moving forwards.
Julia Hoggett, Chief Executive at the London Stock Exchange Group, felt that whilst many institutions have focused on external recruitment, growing female leadership within the organisation was also important and expanding the definition of senior leadership is crucial. She also expressed concern that missing targets didn’t send a positive message to women within the organisation about their future prospects.
Syreeta Brown, Group Chief People and Communications Officer at Virgin Money, mentioned that retaining as well as recruiting people was key. Addressing deep, systemic challenges around delivering diversity, such as flexible and hybrid working were key when addressing gender diversity.
Malcolm Palmer, Chief Operations Officer at Fidelity International, agreed that data was essential and added that a matrix of activity was also important, including governance and deep dive reviews on executives. As an example, he pointed out that 14-15 months ago, his firm had introduced “enhanced parental leave” which allowed a rebalancing of opportunities to both genders, which had a positive impact in boosting morale within the firm.
Damien Shieber, Head of Culture and Experience at Santander, said the firm’s Women in Business network and employee resource groups had played a huge part in terms of accountability.
How to keep diversity at the top of the agenda
Julia said it was important to keep talking about diversity. She stressed that 95% of all the work she does is reliant on other people, so it’s important to create an environment where everybody has the chance to thrive.
Malcolm echoed Julia’s point about the need for communication and involving more people.
Amanda Blanc from Aviva said its 16 million customers are as diverse as Aviva’s staff, so diversity has to have equal prominence. She also called for those who haven’t submitted data to do so and for the inclusion of small to medium sized firms as representation is currently mainly large firms.
To view the Women in Finance Annual Review, please visit:
Sestini & Co’s commitment to the Women in Finance Charter
Find out more about our commitment to the Women in Finance Charter here: https://www.sestiniandco.com/about-sestini-co/
When we signed up to the Charter in 2016, we had 87.5% female representation in the firm as a whole and 100% female representation in senior management. As of 30 September 2021 we still had 100% female representation in senior management. We are committed to our inclusive recruitment and staff development processes and to maintaining our Charter target.
We pledge to maintain at least 50% of women in senior management until December 2022. Our senior managers are professionally qualified staff at associate director level and above. We are keen to retain Sestini & Co as a female-run business to provide clients and potential clients with an alternative to male-led accountancy firms.
We are actively looking to work with clients and referrers who value inclusivity and diversity, if you would like to discuss this further, please contact us via email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01761 241 861.