While financial services organisations are making progress toward achieving gender parity in the workforce, it is imperative that organisations move more quickly to create a gender-equal work environment. This is in part because there are new generations entering the workforce who have significantly different expectations of their workplace experience than did previous generations. They expect gender neutrality. Organisations that delivery on that expectation will win the battle to attract the best talent.

What the younger generations want from their workplace experience

Much like their Millennial predecessors, today’s young college graduates (Generation Z) are entering the workforce demanding to be treated equally, regardless of gender—with the doors of opportunity open and thresholds navigable by merit. They also expect the companies they work for to be socially conscious, which includes policies supporting gender equality.

Financial services has not been top of the list of career choices for college grads in the past, in large part because it’s been seen as having traditional values—which implicitly or explicitly entrench gender inequality and tend to endorse a hierarchical, patriarchal organisational structure. What’s more, the industry’s reputation for social responsibility has been damaged in the recent past by various financial scandals.

However, Generation Z recognises the resources larger companies, including many financial services firms, have at their disposal in terms of delivering what younger workers want—a path to success. According to Accenture’s Gen Z Rising report (which I spoke about in my previous blog series), recent college grads show greater interest in working for a large company. This interest is partly because of these firms’ ability to provide the training and development opportunities, as well as the variety of roles, that can help new entrants to the workforce achieve their career dreams—which may include a seat in the boardroom.

Generation Z workers are willing to work hard and make sacrifices in exchange for flexibility, work-life balance, and tailored career development without boundaries—such as the limitations imposed by entrenched gender inequality.

But there’s another piece to the bargain. These idealistic young workers want the opportunity, through the companies they work for, to do good in addition to doing well. So, how can financial services firms address this?

Can financial services deliver on social responsibility?

If financial services firms want to be competitive and attract top-quality talent, they must be responsive to all of the younger (Y and Z) generations’ changing expectations. Firms must demonstrate this through their workforce structures, the opportunities they offer young workers, and their approach to customers—who will increasingly be of the same generation.

Firms can attract these talented young people by:

  • offering comprehensive and customised training and development programs,
  • providing equal promotional opportunities to employees irrespective of gender, and
  • demonstrating the value of, and tangible opportunities for, social responsibility—including gender parity.

Lest leaders and human resources representatives be at a loss for how to achieve the third objective, Accenture Interactive’s 2018 Fjord Trends report on the ethics economy proposes key actions organisations can take to win over these young recruits:

  • Present a solid and public stance on critical social issues—for example, publicly announce targets or take a position around the partners they will work with.
  • Be proactive in driving social change, rather than simply reacting to and apologising for any mistakes made.
  • Step up immediately to admit any wrong doing (accountability and ownership are seen as particular challenges in financial services).
  • Invite employees to share their views on how to be more socially responsible.
  • Incorporate ethical positions into branding.

Needless to say, gender parity is a compelling social issue. Firms that walk the talk of gender parity and make that conversation very public will do well at attracting today’s and tomorrow’s new talent.


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