The rise in the number of women in meetings shows how far the financial services sector has come, according to the head of human resources at Hansard International.
Karen Corran told International Adviser: “I can go back 10 years and it would be quite common to be the only female in the room in a meeting.
“Now I would say it is quite rare.”
Consulting firm Mercer released a report in 2016 called When Women Thrive, which found women are under-represented at all levels in financial services (aside from support staff) and make up just 15% of executives globally.
Having diversity within a company brings a different way of thinking and, as Deb Byron, head of IT at Hansard, told IA, women have the confidence to do what others will not.
Byron said: “Certainly on a board, a woman tends to bring more of the softer skills. They will often ask the ‘dumb’ question, but half the room would like to ask that but wouldn’t.
“This often draws out the explanations. That filters down to senior management where you have women who look at things in a different way and in a different perspective.”
Michelle Wallace, HR manager at the firm, added: “It is good to have a balance and a mixture of viewpoints. I would think female influence, whether on a board or in a workplace, people see the benefit of it.”
Climbing up the ladder
Hansard International is based on the Isle of Man, and the crown dependency released a census study in 2016 which showed women represented 55% of the total finance sector workforce.
The industry, globally, needs to work out how to get more women to climb up the managerial ladder.
But people come into the financial services sector from all walks of life, which means development needs to be accessible to all.
Lynn Bell, director of administration, said to IA: “I came to Hansard at an early age – I didn’t go to university, but I was allowed to do my Master’s in business and that gave me confidence, in terms of what we do in the industry.
“Also, it gave me a knowledge of who we work with in the sector. I am always keen to stress the importance of further development for yourself and stretch yourself and take on new challenges. Education is a big thing. It does great rewards in the long term.”
Corran added: “There is more we can do to promote the flexibility and highlight it more broadly. More can be done to make people aware of what flexibility can be available.
“I took part in a roundtable on this subject a couple of years ago, and a woman said when females go up the ladder and work for a company for a long time – that flexibility and trust could be the concern.
“If I went to another firm, am I going to be afforded that flexibility in the organisation?”
Katrina Young, learning and development manager, said the “flexibility” within the financial services sector on the Isle of Man means she “wouldn’t change too much” locally.
“We are doing well. We all enjoy a good work-life balance. If I was in London – it would probably be a different matter,” said Young. “It isn’t what attracts people to the island, it is what makes us stay.”
Byron said that the island’s positive role models; like Karen Badgerow, the head of the Isle of Man Financial Services Authority, and Gill Marples, the former head of the Manx Insurance Association, show people “there is no glass ceiling”, and “just because you are female – does not mean you cannot do it”.