While the financial services industry is not at the lowest rung of the ladder in terms of gender parity, it’s not on the top rung either. However, there’s potential for improvement.

And that’s important, because achieving gender parity is not just good for society, it has significant financial benefits as well. Organisations that strive for gender parity perform better than those that do not. The fact that, in 2016, Bloomberg launched its Financial Services Gender-Equality Index (GEI) should alert firms to the importance of considering gender parity as a key strategic initiative.

Consider this: as approximately one-half of the world’s population, women are not only valuable resources within the workforce, they also represent a significant revenue opportunity as customers. This is particularly important within the financial services industry, given that women are frequently the “money managers” in their households.

There’s a broader issue too. According to the World Economic Forum 2017 report on gender parity, “ensuring the healthy development and appropriate use of half of the world’s total talent pool has a vast bearing on the growth, competitiveness, and future-readiness of economies and businesses worldwide.”

What financial services firms can do to help women succeed

We know that digital fluency, the right career choices, and embracing technology can be great equalisers for women in the workforce. Financial services firms and their human resources teams can help women boost their earning potential and their opportunities for advancement by:

  • providing tools, training, and opportunities for women to apply digital technology to improve their work lives,
  • providing ongoing opportunities for women to further immerse themselves in technology—including classes, job rotations, and job shadowing,
  • encouraging and supporting mentorships and advocacies that help women advance to senior positions,
  • assisting women to proactively create career paths, and
  • Working on their policies and benefits associated with parental leave to make sure they provide parental leave, enable flexible working arrangements and encourage women to stay with the organisation while they are having their families. This can be a true differentiator when it comes to attracting and retaining key women.

There is another critical step firms must take: working to eliminate unconscious bias against income and leadership parity for women. This is an important cultural change effort. Firms must look closely at themselves to identify any areas that are holding women back. Pay audits provide a foundation for eliminating compensation inequities. Evaluations of the work environment for signs of hostility or discrimination, no matter how subtle, can reveal the insights needed to make the environment welcoming, supportive, and affirming to all employees.

Following the example of, and learning from, others

One of the most important first steps in driving gender parity is setting targets. Accenture has committed to achieving a gender-balanced workforce by the year 2025. Currently, nearly 40% of Accenture’s global workforce is women (approximately 150,000). The company has also established (and met some of) these milestones:

  • 40% female new hires by 2017 (achieved in 2016).
  • Promoting 30% of its female employees to the managing director level.
  • Growing the percentage of women managing directors to 25% globally by 2020.

Gender parity is a multi-faceted issue, requiring a multi-faceted approach. Through this and each of the previous four posts of this six-part series, I’ve taken a deeper look into the many aspects and nuances of making gender parity a reality. In my final post, the Ultimate Guide to Gender Parity, I’ll sum it all up.

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