Rarely do I write just about gender diversity and now is not the moment to start. But events over the last couple of weeks mean that I do want to shout out for the courage and tenacity of women in the City of London (and elsewhere) who have forged a difficult path or struck out alone to break down barriers or crash ceilings. On Thursday I attended a lunch to celebrate 50 years since the London Stock Exchange admitted women to the floor of the Exchange. Six women from that vanguard were at the lunch and they were given a standing ovation as the giants on whose shoulders we all stand. Well done to Julia Hoggett and the London Stock Exchange to celebrate this moment. History shows it was not as radical as it sounds as it was rather forced on London as they merged with the regional UK exchanges where women were already traders. Nevertheless, the steps were taken and the business adapted and, indeed, improved due to that initiative. You have to take every ball thrown at you to succeed.
That was 1973 just five years before I started as an articled clerk (trainee) with solicitors Alsop Stevens (now DLA Piper). I did have fellow female articled clerks and solicitors in the firm, but 7 years’ later I became the first female partner. The women at LSEG did not see themselves as giants and nor do I but younger colleagues often remark on that success and wonder what it was like. The lawyers, unlike the traders were relatively polite and ribald jokes were not the usual banter in a City law firm. I was known by the nickname of “boy” by one colleague even when I was by then a full partner with him!
Financial services have not been able to diversify their workforces as effectively as the professional firms (and some of them need to do a lot more). Whilst the 30% Club has had success in the number of women on Boards in the FTSE350 – meeting their target, the non-executive positions are largely below 30%. Fintech seems to be where most progress is needed, according to the marvellous article by the FT about the women in the LSEG and they report the data from HM Treasury.
Last week I also attended the IBDE annual meeting where I sit on its Advisory Board for EDI – looking at the much wider picture than just gender. We have just completed a survey amongst businesses about how EDI intersects with business development, trade, cross border discussions and ESG. Looking at EDI through the prism of such direct business engagement is a very powerful way to see how much more we need to do in the business community generally. The results of the survey will be published fully in due course.
On International Women’s Day I hosted the annual gathering in Guildhall to celebrate the role of women with an audience drawn widely from across the City and associated organisations. The event has been running for over 15 years and has raised the profile of women in the City whilst raising over £300,000 for the charity Refuge. We have embraced male contributors, heard from domestic abuse survivors, military and police as well as education, sport, charity and the arts. Women everyone want to #EmbraceEquity (the 2023 UN theme for International Women’s Day).
We still need giants from all parts of the business with varied backgrounds and experiences to keep up the momentum. To embrace all comers in order to create better businesses that reflect our society, our customers and our world is a good yardstick.