International Women’s Day, which falls this weekend, is a great moment to stand back and reflect on whether we are doing enough on diversity and inclusion.
The UK’s public company boardrooms are not the places they once were. Boards are smaller with only 2 or 3 executives. The retired admirals and diplomats have largely gone. Financial and sector expertise is now valued highly and about a third of executives are female.
All good news but in some respects, progress has stalled. The number of female executives remains low and, looking at appointments below the Board and executive committees, that will not change quickly. BAME appointments are rare and many companies are not even reporting seriously on their plans.
This matters. Diversity in the boardroom and amongst senior executives is good for governance, decision making, strategy development and profitability. Diverse and inclusive teams are more likely to challenge the mighty CEO; more likely to generate diversity of thought and more likely to provide insight on customers and the wider public interest of the business.
Investors have latched onto this. Some fund managers are voting against the re-election of chairs who have not achieved a good gender balance on their boards. And regulators are looking for diversity in the firms they supervise, because they are convinced it leads to a better culture in the business and reduces the risk of group-think.
At the FLA we have signed up to the Women in Finance Charter and encourage our members to do so too. Our new D&I information hub on the FLA website launches today, and we support and are working with the Leasing Foundation which promotes inclusion and innovation and helps put younger members of the industry onto the leadership path.
But there is so much more for our industry to do – so many opportunities to bring people together, to create an opportunity for them, to inspire them, to harness their perspectives and ability to innovate. Without this, we are liable to surrender markets that we could ourselves open and grow.
And whilst paying full attention to the opportunities being provided by business for employees and future leaders, we need to think more holistically about inclusion to help those that our industry does not reach. Financial inclusion must be of the highest priority.
There is much to think about and even more to do. The FLA and its members will play their part.
Stephen Haddrill is the director-general of the Finance and Leasing Association