The head of a leading North East recruitment firm has welcomed a Treasury report which aims to help more female professionals reach the top of the Financial Services career ladder.

Managing director at Newcastle-based Edward Reed Recruitment, Chris Stappard, has spoken out about the ‘Women in Finance’ charter which was released earlier this month and has praised Virgin Money chief executive officer, Jayne-Anne Gadhia, for raising awareness to the wider business community of an issue which the recruitment sector has been aware of for some time.

“The Financial Services sector is the highest paid sector in the UK economy, where the gender pay gap for full-time employees is at its most extreme,” Chris said.

“Every time the gender pay gap has been brought under scrutiny, the government has stressed that addressing such imbalances will not only have a significant impact on the economy, but it will also improve the competitiveness of the UK’s Financial Services industry in the international marketplace.

“Achieving a balanced workforce at all levels of management within the Financial Services sector will undoubtedly improve culture, behaviour, outcomes, profitability and productivity.

“Jayne-Anne Gadhia’s Review is a giant leap forward for achieving gender equality in the workplace, and her recommendations to help Financial Services organisations increase the representation of women in senior managerial roles compliments the government’s progress in this area.”

After an investigation led by Gadhia revealed that only 14% of executive committee member positions within the Financial Services sector were held by women, HM Treasury commissioned a full report which would reveal the extent of the gender salary gap within the sector and make recommendations on how to resolve it.

The Women in Finance Charter, which has since been signed by over 120 Financial Services firms, commits firms to support the progression of women into senior management roles, encourages firms to implement targets and strategies internally that will help them achieve gender equality in managerial positions, and requires firms to publicly report their progress against these targets to support the transparency and accountability needed to drive change.

Recognised globally as a top Financial Services centre, the UK is home to many of the world’s leading markets and exchanges. The Financial Services sector as a whole employs over two million people, two thirds of which are located in major cities outside of central London such as Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle.

At entry level, 66% of the Financial Services workforce are women. This figure is literally halved at mid-management level to 33% and by senior management, only 18% of those in director level or equivalent roles are female, with even less making it to board or committee level.

“These figures are just not good enough,” Chris said.

“By failing to utilise the talent pool that they have internally and diversify their workforce, firms risk failing to leverage their resources to their full potential and are subsequently damaging their own competitive advantage within the market.”

Jayne-Anne Gadhia, said:

“More women than men are employed in Financial Services, but, many do not progress beyond middle management levels, leaving almost all of the top jobs in the hands of men. The recommendations of the Gadhia Review allow companies to find their own ways to achieve the outcome that will drive superior local results and a material improvement to UK productivity for the UK economy.”

The support that the Gadhia Review has received from HM Treasury and the government clearly shows that parliament sees the removal of the barriers which prevent women from succeeding in certain market sectors as a crucial part of improving the UK’s long-term economic performance.

Research presented within the Gadhia Review from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates that equalising the gender pay gap and the roles of men and women in the workplace could increase by up to 10% by 2030.

“In an economy which has been destabilised by Brexit, the focus of the Women in Finance Charter could not be more timely or appropriate,” Chris concluded.

“In order to benefit both the economy and the sector as a whole, organisations operating within Financial Services need to embrace diversity and change, and Jayne-Anne Gadhia’s recommendations look set to enable exactly that.”