The Blog

Progress? What Progress? – DE&I in Finance

Dec 18, 2023 | Corporates

Earlier this year, Tony Danker, Head of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), was dismissed following sexual harassment allegations and further complaints about his workplace conduct. This incident, reported by The Guardian, underscored the ongoing struggles women face in the workplace and emphasized the need for robust Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives. It also sparked a discussion on the underrepresentation of women and ethnic minorities in senior leadership roles.

In the UK, a 2022 Reboot report revealed alarming discrimination statistics in the finance sector: 70% of ethnic minority employees experienced workplace discrimination, and 80% encountered unwelcome comments based on their background. Surprisingly, DE&I scores dropped from 67/100 in 2022 to 65/100 in 2023, indicating a regression in the sector. A Reboot survey, including 800 financial professionals, found 40% doubting their executives’ commitment to combating racial discrimination.

Bloomberg’s 2023 analysis highlighted a significant gender pay gap in UK finance, with women earning 26% less than men, compared to a 13% national average. Despite diversity and inclusion policies, progress on gender and race issues has stalled post-COVID-19, with even wider gaps in the City of London and magic circle law firms.

The gender pay gap is largely attributed to the scarcity of women in top leadership roles. Although the share of female leaders in top financial firms rose slightly, it’s insufficient to close the pay gap significantly.

The Diversity Project’s annual #WhatWorks event in November 2023 addressed these challenges. Amidst pandemic-related setbacks and current market conditions, there’s a risk of further stagnation. Notable speakers like Steve Butler, CEO of Punter Southall Aspire, and Helena Morrissey, Chair of Diversity Project UK, emphasized the need for top-level commitment to drive DE&I.

Since its inception in 2016, the Diversity Project has gained over 100 members, fostering hope for justice and equality in race and gender issues. However, the journey towards systemic change in financial institutions remains long and arduous. Real transformation requires genuine commitment from senior leaders, recognizing that gender and race equality are fundamental human rights, beyond financial gain or public image.

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