The Future of Women in the City

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We all know the city has a long way to go when it comes to achieving gender parity. But what are the systemic and cultural problems at the root of this inequality and how can we best tackle them?  This July we were delighted to welcome Peter Harrison, CEO of British multinational asset management company Schroders, who took us through the challenges and successes he has faced in his efforts to bring diversity into the City of London.  Peter was interviewed by the brilliant former Financial Times Business Editor, Sarah Gordon.

The conversation explored a number of the key issues known to be preventing progress, as well as evaluating some of the strategies that have been implemented.  Here are some of the key points:

· The challenges that organisations face are both systemic and human, with unconscious bias still a huge factor. Companies are already changing on a systemic level; the human element is where the challenge lies. Solutions to this need to be broad, but might include companies being required to report on diversity in company accounts or more organisations linking managers’ targets and bonuses to diversity data.

· Data is key.  Ensuring efforts are correctly focused is impossible without this – for example, data would suggest that unconscious bias training is not really effective, whereas standardised interview questions are.

· Gender pay gap reporting was a hugely effective wake-up call to many organisations.  However, the metrics are not perfect.  Some suggest that the gender pay gap may have to widen for long-term positive effects to be felt, as firms need to hire entry-level female talent to close the gap.

· The problem of lack of diversity needs to be addressed by private companies, not just public companies.

· The discussion needs to develop beyond gender into a broader discussion on diversity. Many firms are still not tackling issues such as social inclusion.

 

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