International Women’s Day 2024: We’ve come a long way, but we’re not there yet

Jade Keval, sales director at Somo, marks International Women's Day with an article looking at the importance of gender parity in the finance sector. Jade says although it may appear that the equality we have been striving for has arrived, a more detailed look at the sector as a whole tells a different story.

Related topics:  Finance News,  Special Features,  Women in Finance
Jade Keval | Somo
8th March 2024
Jade Keval Somo
"Different experiences, perspectives and ways of working allow a business to better understand its customers and find solutions and strategies to thrive."

Today marks International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day is also used as a call to action to accelerate gender parity.

While I value the opportunity to reflect on how far women have come in the last 100 years I also think it’s a shame that we still need to have an initiative around gender.

I’ve been working in finance for 15 years and it’s safe to say that a lot of things regarding gender and equality have changed in that time. When I took my first finance job the stereotype within the industry was that it was male dominated and I was happy to step into that knowing that I had to have a loud voice to succeed and compete against my male counterparts.

Fast forward 15 years and my workplace looks entirely different. I head up the sales team at specialist bridging firm, Somo and we’re proud to say we have a 50/50 split between genders across the business and our wider Social Money group. What’s more, half of the senior management team are women.

In many ways it appears the equality we have been striving for has arrived. But a more detailed look at the sector as a whole tells a different story. Just last year the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum’s 2023 Gender Balance Index concluded that it will take another 140 years to reach gender parity in leadership positions across the sector. So, while progress has been made, there is still more to be done.

Let’s take a step back to consider why gender diversity is important. From a business perspective, it makes sound financial sense to have a diverse workplace. According to a recent McKinsey report, Diversity wins: How inclusion matters, organisations with more than 30% female workforce were more likely to outperform organisations with less women. It also found that companies in the fourth quartile for gender diversity were 19% more likely to underperform in terms of profit, than companies in the top quartiles.

In my experience women and men are very different creatures and for a workplace to thrive we need both. Different experiences, perspectives and ways of working allow a business to better understand its customers and find solutions and strategies to thrive.

Day to day at Somo I’m always amazed and inspired by the creativity and resilience of many of my female colleagues, and I know we wouldn’t be where we are today without them. That’s why this year, on International Women’s Day, Somo will be celebrating this year’s IWD theme of ‘Inspire Inclusion’ by asking colleagues to write down on a short note celebrating a female coworker that inspires them and give the reason why. We’ll be displaying these notes in the office on March 8. It’s a gentle nod to show how women are valued and included at Somo.

Aligning with the theme of Inspire Inclusion, Somo is launching a new Academy to nurture young talent. We’re committed to having an equal male/female split and want to ensure the industry feels open and accessible to all. A university education or specific qualifications shouldn’t be mandatory for everyone working in finance, otherwise how are we reflecting society as a whole?

The Academy is one of the ways that Somo is working to deliver gender parity. I hope that on International Women’s Day this year other firms in finance are working towards their own initiatives and taking a hard look at what else they can do to ensure quality in the workplace.

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