It’s no secret that the financial services industry has a problem with its lack of gender diversity. The issue is particularly prominent higher up the ranks. Of course, the issue is not exclusive to this industry. Having worked in a range of businesses – from marketing agencies to professional services – for over 25 years, I know that this is a UK and industry-wide problem. At Brown Shipley, we want to help change this.
We recognise that this transformation will not happen overnight, but it is a challenge that we will not shy away from. We are committed to increasing diversity and we have recently launched an internal network, Ignite, to help us on this crucial journey.
As Head of HR at Brown Shipley, this network is something I feel particularly passionate about. We believe it is important to give women the tools to progress to the top of the business and with the right role models in place, inspire young women to pursue a career in financial services.
Ensuring you have a diverse workforce makes commercial sense. We must reflect the clients and communities we serve. As a business, therefore, we are focusing on ways to encourage our employees to have the confidence to progress in their careers, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or socio-economic background. Furthermore, we want to create an inclusive business environment for our employees and indeed our clients.
While everyone’s experience at work is unique, the evidence suggests that it is more common for women to make career changes or take extended breaks as a result of having children. Our approach to flexible working is supporting more women to return to work, though we are pleased that our male colleagues are also taking the opportunity to work flexibly to help with caring responsibilities.
Recognising the lack of diversity at the top of most businesses isn’t just an issue of gender, we believe everyone needs to be involved in the conversation. Indeed, we need buy-in from all our colleagues to make our ambitions a reality, which is why this new initiative invites all colleagues at Brown Shipley to participate.
The network’s aim is to promote an inclusive culture that will enable our employees to develop and thrive. There will be a programme of personal development opportunities including networking, inviting expert external speakers, mentoring and knowledge sharing.
We recently hosted the first of the Ignite events, where guest speaker Irene Afful – the first Black and Minority Ethnic female inspector for Merseyside Police, now Founder and Director of Ametrine Enterprise Solutions – told her inspiring story of how she overcame personal barriers in the workplace to progress her career and she shared her tools and strategies for support.
We have also launched an ‘Emerging Talent’ group which looks to develop a number of talented, more junior employees who we believe have potential to progress throughout the business. Our aim is to nurture the skills required through practical sessions supporting these colleagues to grow, both as individuals and as financial services experts.
In summary there’s never been a more pertinent time to address the lack of diversity in business. Stakeholders are more aware of and engaged in the debate than ever before. Clients, investors, regulators, current and potential employees, amongst others, increasingly expect results in this space. We view this as a hugely positive development and are committed to speeding up progress. Our Emerging Talent scheme and Ignite network are just the first of many plans to engage with our colleagues at Brown Shipley to create a more inclusive organisation
Debbie Shaw // Head of HR
This article was first published in Citywire on 7 August 2019.