February 1, 2018

A Year of Change: For Women and for Business


By Henriette Stoll, Junior Account Executive at Instinctif Partners

Everyone agrees: Alleged behaviour at the Presidents Club is ‘typical of British men’. This headline was one of many after the Financial Times’s undercover report of the cases of harassment at the Presidents Club’s men-only charity dinner burned through the City like wildfire last week.

This was not a one-off either. After the #MeToo movement, the accusations against Harvey Weinstein and the ongoing gender pay gap debates, the treatment of women in the professional environment is on everyone’s agenda. Journalists in particular are seizing the moment to dig for scandalous stories that they can add into the mix.

During this process, many eyes have turned to the financial services industry: The Independent quoted hostesses saying they witnessed “parties in the City [of London] they think too shocking to recount”, which paired with the industry’s history of being dominated by wealthy men in suits has further fuelled the idea of a glass ceiling within the industry: making it possible for women to work there, but never to reach the top.

None of this a reason for dismay, however. The many outcries against the treatment of women and their discrimination in the workplace have brought with them an opportunity for a financial services company to become a leader of thought and change around the issue and champion women working in finance.

There is a host of organisations and events to choose from, that would both thrive with the support of big names as well as stand their supporters in good stead with the more left-leaning national and financial media.

Ahead of the deadline for companies with 250 employees or more to report their gender pay gap on 4th April, the below opportunities lay a good foundation around the influx of media attention that is to be expected then.

With the introduction of the Women in Finance Charter in 2016, the Women in Finance Awards have seen a new uptake in popularity, as an event that has a wide range of sponsors and big names as partners. And nominees needn’t necessarily be women – the awards recognise support and advocacy alongside industry brilliance.

The Fawcett Society, which has been campaigning for women’s rights since 1866 and originated the “Equal Pay Day”, offers memberships, opportunities for volunteers, and a range of campaigns, which range from social media initiatives like “Reclaim the Internet” to a year-long local government commission. This year’s particular focus is going to be on the centenary of the legalisation of votes for women in 1918.

Another worthwhile organisation is the 30% Club, which was launched as a campaign in 2010 with the goal to achieve a minimum of 30% of women on FTSE-100 boards (it is currently at 28.4% in the UK, which is a great boost from 12.5%). As part of their initiative, the 30% Club offers a mentoring scheme delivered by Women Ahead, which sees seasoned professionals as mentors (both men and women) deliver cross-company, cross-sector mentoring to mentees at all levels. The scheme is run in the UK, Ireland and US and has been successful as well as highly lauded in the media.

Ultimately, 2018 could be a year that sees significant change for women in the workplace across all industries. However, with a reputation arguably worse than all other industries amongst the general public, there is a clear opportunity for financial services firms to show leadership on this issue and show that they can be a force for good. Only time will tell, but by grasping the nettle on this thorny issue, financial services firms can prove the longstanding critics wrong.