Bhavini 'Bev' Shah, founder of City Hive, the women's network for the asset management industry, has provided a five-point guide for the Treasury Committee inquiry, the Women in Finance Charter, highlighting steps females can overcome to progress in the sector.
In October last year, the Treasury Committee launched the inquiry to identify the barriers to women entering and progressing in the financial services industry as a whole, while also examining the value to financial firms of having greater gender balance across all job grades and functions.
The Committee will also scrutinise the role of government and financial regulators in acting as role models for good gender diversity practices.
Shah submitted a five-point guide in early January as evidence for the inquiry on how women can overcome the hurdles faced in entering and progressing in the asset and investment management industry in particular.
The five points are summarised below:
1. Attract talent through education
Shah said: "First, we need to educate and communicate. We must demystify our industry so that we attract more talent, regardless of gender.
"We work in a fascinating industry which plays a vital role in the nation's economy yet most people have no idea what we do and why it's important.
"Our industry needs to address this lack of understanding and we need more diverse role models.
2. Re-think recruitment - blind CVS
"We need to look at the entire recruitment process. This includes the way in which we think about the roles we want to fill, the advertising of those roles, and the interview and appointment process.
"Unconscious bias training should be compulsory for all, not just line managers and senior executives within financial services organisations. To stop the unconscious bias trait of hiring in one's own image I am calling on the industry to commit to using blind CVs. There should be no discrimination in the candidate screening process, and no question that a candidate was given an interview on anything but merit."
3. Embrace flexible working
"Most firms provide outstanding technology platforms and equipment for staff yet many attitudes to flexible working remain stuck in the last century.
"For the thousands of women who request to work on a flexible basis, they are not doing so at the expense of their drive, ambition or productivity. They are committed, loyal employees who are also raising the next generation of students, graduates and workers. They simply want to find a different way of working.
"Increasing numbers of men now want flexi-working, and paternity or adoption leave, or sabbaticals, or simply time out to spend with their children."
4. Move beyond middle management bottle-neck
"We need to see a step-change away from the current middle management bottle-neck. Diversity is not just an HR or board level issue, it drives innovation and more robust analysis and it delivers results. We see shifting attitudes at the top but we need diversity and inclusion to be embedded in all processes across all business areas."
5. Improve talent retention programmes
"Retaining talent is critical. There is little use in attracting many more women if they all leave once they hit a certain position, age, or life event.
"Companies spend millions of pounds recruiting and training staff in order to fill the gaps left by those who, having attained invaluable knowledge and built critical relationships across the business, leave because they cannot achieve the work-life balance that makes it worth their while staying. The industry needs to up its game in improving talent retention programmes."
The full written evidence submitted by City Hive's can be viewed here.
Full details of the Treasury Committee inquiry Women in Finance can be found here.
Bev Shah will soon be writing for columns for Investment Week to examine this issue in more detail.
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