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Report: HM Treasury Women in Finance Charter – Annual Review 2020

March 2021 • Driving diversityby by Yasmine Chinwala, Jenny Barrow & Shruti Deb

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Five years since the UK Government launched the HM Treasury Women in Finance Charter, signatories faced their biggest test yet as the pandemic struck in 2020. This fourth Annual Review analyses the largest cohort yet, with data from 209 signatories.

The UK government launched the HM Treasury Women in Finance Charter in March 2016 to encourage the financial services industry to improve gender balance in senior management. The Charter now has more than 400 signatories covering 950,000 employees across the sector.  

This fourth annual review monitors the progress of signatories against their Charter commitments and holds them to account against the four Charter principles. 2020 was a big year for the Charter, with a third of signatories due to hit their targets just as the pandemic struck.

While more than 70% have met or are on track to meet their targets for female representation in senior management, the rest either missed their 2020 deadlines or are falling behind on their future targets, according to New Financial’s analysis.

This review offers unique insight into what Charter signatory firms are doing to boost the proportion of women in senior ranks, who has hit and missed their targets, how they are monitoring the impacts of Covid on their workforce and increasing the collection of diversity data.

To request a copy of the full report, please click  here 

The highlights of the fourth Annual Review are: 

1. Moving in the right direction: Just over a third (35%) of the 209 signatories analysed in this review have met their targets for female representation in senior management, and a further 36% that have targets with future deadlines said they are on track to meet them. Three out of five (62%) firms either increased or maintained their proportion of women in senior management during the reporting period.

2. A big year for the Charter: 2020 marked the biggest test yet for Charter signatories, with a group of 81 due to hit their targets by the end of the year. Of these, 37 met their targets for female representation in senior management, while 44 did not.

3. Missing 2020 deadlines: Of the 44 that missed their 2020 deadline, 35 came close – they were either within five percentage points or 10 female appointments of hitting their target. The most common reasons they gave include setting deliberately ambitious targets in the first place and recruitment or promotion freezes due to Covid. 

4. Monitoring the impact of Covid: Two-thirds of signatories are seeking to quantify and qualify the impacts of Covid on women in their workforce.  The most frequently mentioned include running employee surveys, offering support via network groups, adapting flexible working, focusing on wellbeing and adding indicators to diversity data dashboards.

5. Early days for intersectional data: Just over half (53%) of signatories capture data on additional diversity strands within the female senior management population. The most commonly collected areas are ethnicity, sexual orientation, and disability.

6. Top actions driving change: Signatories still place the greatest emphasis on changes to recruitment practices to push towards their targets, but they are also increasing their focus on building internal talent pipelines. Firms are using data to improve accountability and quantify the impact of actions.

7. Accountable at the top table: Accountability is sitting at the highest levels of seniority, with almost all (98%) accountable executives being executive committee members. AEs are taking more strategic action and increasing their involvement in holding others to account for diversity.

8. Linking to pay: This year marks a step change in the quality and quantity of signatory reporting on the link between pay and diversity targets. Nearly half (49%) said the link is effective, while 47% said it is too early to tell. There is an increasingly granular approach to implementing the link to pay, and greater expectation that senior leaders will deliver.

9. Publishing updates: Nearly two thirds (61%) published an online update on their progress by the required deadline, but the quality and format of reporting varied significantly.

10. Stretching targets: While signatories select their own targets and definitions of senior management, there is growing consensus on best practice. Nearly two-thirds (62%) have set targets of at least 33%, in line with HM Treasury’s desire for alignment with the Hampton Alexander review. And for more than half (53%) of signatories, senior management accounts for up to 10% of the total workforce.

Research methodology:  

This review analyses annual updates from 209 signatories that signed the Charter before September 2019, provided an annual update to HM Treasury in September 2020 and have more than 100 staff . 

The data was shared with New Financial on a confidential basis. All data has been anonymised and aggregated, and no data has been attributed without consent from the relevant signatory. The data was analysed by Shruti Deb and Jennifer Barrow under the supervision of Yasmine Chinwala and Panagiotis Asimakopoulos.

For more information on the Annual Review or on New Financial’s diversity programme, please contact Yasmine Chinwala on  yasmine.chinwala@newfinancial.org   

About New Financial:

New Financial is a think tank and forum that makes the positive case for bigger and better capital markets in Europe. We think there is a huge opportunity for the industry and its customers to embrace change and reform, and to rethink how capital markets work. Diversity is one of our core areas of coverage. 


New Financial would like to thank all our institutional members for their support, and particularly Virgin Money, Refinitiv and City of London Corporation for funding our work on the HM Treasury Women in Finance Charter. 

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