Aiming for gender equality is not only the right thing to do, it’s also a major contributor to advancing economic development. But in the financial services sector, women are under-represented at all levels, both as consumers and in the workforce.
Recent research shows that, globally, women represent 23 per cent of positions on boards in financial services firms. This is progress compared to 11 per cent in 2013, but it isn’t equality. Also, the same research estimates that if financial services firms met the needs of female customers fully, this would generate at least US$700 billion of extra revenue a year. Women have historically suffered restricted access to financial services because of difficulties in meeting requirements – for example, ‘know your customer’ rules often ask for official identity documents and asset ownership that many women don’t have. This is harmful not only for women but to wider society, as it limits opportunities for economic participation.
The financial services sector is full of opportunities to close gender gaps – across leadership, the workforce and the consumers they reach. It makes clear business sense: increasing women’s participation within the workforce can help these businesses serve female customers more effectively.
We've trained 80 of HBL's senior managers on the value of gender awareness.
We work closely with the businesses we invest in, to help them strengthen gender equality. For example, over the past two years, we’ve provided guidance and support to HBL, a bank in Pakistan, which has set ambitious targets to increase female employment. We’ve helped by designing a plan to continue strengthening gender diversity at the firm and training 80 of HBL’s senior managers on the value of gender awareness.
In India, women make up only 8 per cent of the financial services workforce. When we invested in IIFL Finance, women accounted for just 5 per cent of middle management and 19 per cent of total staff. The firm identified ways of lifting these numbers, and we’re working with the business to implement them.
The company’s results to date have been impressive. Two years ago, only 35 per cent of women staff returned after maternity leave; now 95 per cent do. More women are receiving professional development coaching, applying for senior jobs and being promoted. With our support, the firm is collecting gender-disaggregated data right across its hiring process (from application, to interview, to offer and acceptance) to track and eliminate any unconscious bias.
We work with our investees to help them put in place interventions and action plans that close gaps between women and men, and support business growth. This includes supporting the financial services sector, which is full of opportunities to close gender gaps – both across the workforce and the consumers they reach.
If financial services firms fully met the needs of female customers, this could generate US$700 billion extra revenue a year.