MPs back extension of Women in Finance Charter

Over half of MPs (54%) back a recommendation to extend the Women in Finance Charter to cover all businesses not just those in the financial sector, according to the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT)

The Women in Finance Charter, which launched in 2016, asks financial services firms to commit to four key actions: to have a named senior executive responsible and accountable for gender diversity and inclusion; to set internal targets for gender diversity in senior management positions; to publish progress annually; and to link the pay of the senior executive team to delivery against these targets. Signed by just over 300 financial services firms, its impact is currently limited to the finance sector.

The professional accountancy body AAT's recommendation calls for the charter to be widened in scope and renamed the Women in Business Charter. This would open it up to cover all sectors, including government departments, local authorities, charities, all listed companies and SMEs.

The survey by YouGov for AAT indicated that most MPs (54%) would support a change to incorporate all sectors of the economy. Just 15% of MPs said they did not support such a change, while 9% said they did not know either way.

Phil Hall, AAT’s head of policy and public affairs, said that the body is calling for more to be done to drive diversity: “AAT was the first, and for a long time the only, professional accountancy body to sign the Women in Finance Charter, because it knows closing the gap leads to a more diverse and creative workforce, broadens the skills base and can increase creativity and innovation – to say nothing of the obvious issue of fairness and the financial imperative for change.

“However, AAT believes that much more could be done. Huge numbers of businesses, large and small, could improve their awareness and understanding of what needs to be done and make necessary changes, if the charter was widened to include all sectors of the economy. It’s pleasing that most MPs support such a change and we look forward to working them to try and achieve this in 2019.”

But, in relation to the charter's call for organisations to set internal targets for gender diversity, executive director of Catalyst Europe Allyson Zimmermann told HR magazine that using metrics to solve issues with diversity has its limitations.

“It’s very tempting to take a formulaic list approach with D&I challenges and we know, for instance, that accountability and metrics are crucial, but they’re only part of the story," she said. "A one-size-fits-all strategy is a start, but it’s essential to also look deeper at what’s not so easy to measure – such as the company’s culture and how it needs to change to allow women, and other dimensions of diversity, to advance."

Zimmermann added that organisations must be willing to examine their own biases: "Engaging with the dominant group, i.e. the male leaders, is also essential as without their buy-in nothing will change. Catalyst research shows that, despite best intentions, you will continue to have what you’ve always had unless you consciously disrupt the default and weed out the systemic bias baked into the system.”