International Women’s Day: The tech industry is putting its money where its mouth is, but it’s still half-price

Some companies in the financial services sector don’t have a great reputation when it comes to diversity – this is news to no one. So, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that financial services firms are topping the charts for gender diversity. However, the job is still far from done.

It turns out some men still don’t fully grasp the barriers that hold women back at work and are therefore less committed to gender diversity. According to management consulting firm McKinsey: “many employees think women are well-represented in leadership when they see only a few, and because they’ve become so used to the status quo, they don’t feel any urgency for change.”

Gender diversity continues to dominate both news and politics. Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, a study recently indicated that Britain’s most successful companies tend to have a large proportion of women in senior management roles (um, duh), and this year has also seen the shutting down of the grotesque Presidents Club following an FT investigation.

More recently, the government has announced a £1.5 million fund to help tackle the gender pay gap by offering grants for people to return to work after taking time out to care for others as part of a wider £5 million initiative.

Pressure from shareholders and the government has led to the number of women on FTSE boards increasing since 2011, but it is still lacking somewhat amongst senior management teams. Though this hasn’t always been the case, the fact that financial services firms are doing so well compared to their fellow industries in gender diversity is a positive change.

In 2016, as part of the government’s Women in Finance Charter, major banks and financial institutions published gender strategies that committed them to ambitious targets for the number of women they employ in senior roles. Of the 72 firms that signed the charter, 60 of those committed to having at least 30 per cent of women in senior roles by 2021 – including banks and insurers.

However, while there has been progression, it doesn’t mean we’re at the finish line. In fact, the UK is lagging behind the US and Australia when it comes to diversity at the top. Even firms as large as Barclays have reported figures that suggest female employees earn up to 43.5 per cent less than men in certain divisions, and government data has shown that 74% of firms pay higher rates to their male staff.

This isn’t just a social issue, but also an economic challenge. McKinsey suggested that $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality and predicted that 240 million workers would be added to the world’s working force in 2025 by closing the gender pay gap.

So, it begs the question: why are businesses being so slow to recognise the vast amount of talent and revenue women have to offer? The next three years will certainly be interesting to watch.