Rise of women to top of UK finance is ‘stagnating’

The City of London financial district is seen in London, Britain, October 22, 2021. REUTERS / Hannah McKay

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LONDON, June 23 (Reuters) – Britain’s six-year drive to increase the number of women in senior management at financial firms is “stagnating” for the first time, a review for the finance ministry said on Thursday.

The ministry launched its voluntary Women in Finance Charter in 2016 and more than 400 firms have now signed up.

A review by New Financial think tank found that 78% of signed-up firms are meeting or are on track to meet their targets, up 5% on last year.

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The average level of female representation in senior management remained flat at 33% in 2021 compared with 2020, the review said.

Almost half of firms have committed to have 40% of their boardroom made up of women.

“I am concerned to see progress stagnating,” said Women in Finance Champion Amanda Blanc.

“Frankly, up to now there has been too much tinkering at the edges and not enough fundamental change,” said Blanc, who is also chief executive of insurer Aviva.

“There are some glimmers of hope with more ambitious targets being set and met. But for the sake of women, companies and society, we’ve got to work quicker and harder.”

Signatories agree to support the progression of women into senior roles by setting targets to improve diversity and publicly report on their progress.

“I welcome this year’s progress, but settings targets is just one part of the process – I am today calling on firms to double-down on their to commitments and continue to deliver greater gender-equality in the workplace,” Britain’s financial services minister John Glen said in a statement.

Pension Bee, Yorkshire Building Society and American Express headed the list of 33 signatories that have met their own internal targets ahead of the deadline.

There were 31 firms who missed their own targets for 2021, though 19 of them were close, citing reasons such as restructuring, low turnover in senior management, and COVID-19.

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Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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