Women in Finance – How the Finance Industry is Working to Close the Gender Gap

A few weeks on from International Women’s Day Financial Planner, Charlene Coulbeck, reflects on how the Finance sector is taking steps to provide women with equal opportunities in our industry.

Here at IFP we have a strong vision of equality for our staff and our clients. For example, our all-female Senior Leadership Team provides our firm with a diverse outlook and a strong female leadership presence alongside our Board.

Historically, the Finance sector has been seen as a very male dominated sector, with estimates suggesting that female advisers are outnumbered by male counterparts by a ratio anywhere from 10:1 to 6:1. There are however, many changes happening and real work being done to correct this, and as one of the ‘outnumbered’ female advisers myself, I feel it is important we talk about the good our industry is taking to close the inequality gap.

My conference experience

Having been in the financial advice industry for a number of years, the knowledge of it being a predominately male environment was no real shock to me. However, I will never forget attending my first national conference for advisers a few years ago, and being struck by how few women were in the room. I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb!  However, since then I have attended a number of provider events and further conferences, and have seen an increase in the gender balance and have networked with many inspirational up and coming female advisers.  The Financial Conduct Authority have recognised this shift too, and reported that between 2017 and 2018, the average level of female representation in senior management grew from 34 to 38%.

Education is key?

International Women’s Day provided an interesting read in the Financial Times, reporting how much the “financial literacy gap” places a part in gender inequality – with women being less confident with money. Research conducted by the Dutch central bank showed women scored only 29% compared to men at 58%, when asked about the basics of interest rates, inflation and investment diversification. Read more about this here.

From this I think we can all agree that building the confidence of our next generation of women is key to closing this “financial literacy gap”. The Finance Industry has a direct and important role to play here, and I fully believe that financial education should begin early, in schools, colleges and university – providing all genders the tools and knowledge to deal with their own finances with more confidence.

How are Informed Financial Planning trying to close the gap?

On a company level, IFP are fully behind the idea of financial education. During the first lockdown I recorded and we released a series of 12 videos covering the basics of finance, aimed at children aged between 9 and 16 years old. The idea was born from helping parent’s home schooling during such a difficult situation, but swiftly became a project of its own which I found immensely fulfilling. The link to these free resources can be found here.

The Chartered Insurance Institute, who are an awarding industry body, also have a great initiative called the Education Champions, where financial advisers are trained to present in schools about financial issues. I am delighted to have been involved in this project and look forward to presenting in local schools after the Covid19 pandemic is over.

In addition we also have our very own pioneering Financial Education Programme for companies to provide for their staff, involving educational presentations and help sessions on issues such as debt, savings and pensions.

Moving on…

The industry knows we have a gender issue. My article will not be the first or the last to address inequality in finance (and nor should it be). That said, leaps and bounds are being taken to move on from this. The Women in Finance Charter is a Government led project and asks financial services firms to commit to implement four key industry actions. The recent Budget detailed a £3bn compensation payout for women, whose State Pensions had been underpaid.

Professional Adviser hosts the Women in Financial Advice awards each year, which celebrates the achievements of women working within the financial advice community, and the list of last years’ winners can be viewed here.

Women in Banking and Finance is also a long standing organisation which celebrated it’s 40th anniversary last month with many inspirational female leaders gaining recognition at their annual Achievement Awards, including Leanne Allen of KPMG; Joanne Hannaford of Goldman Sachs; Ayesa Latif of Citibank; and Helena Thernstrom of NatWest.

There is still a long way to go, but with more recognition and frank discussions, the world of finance is moving in the right direction for women.

If you would like us to provide your company with a quote for our Financial Education Programme, which can be delivered digitally or in person once Covid19 rules allow, please get in touch by emailing [email protected] or submitting a Contact Us form and mention this article.

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