When it comes to gender diversity, ‘manager’s manager’ Ann Franke has very publicly named the finance and banking industries as among the least progressive in UK corporate culture.
Ann Francke OBE
Ann Francke OBE
Chief Executive, UK Chartered Management Institute

Who better to talk to on International Women’s Day than the Chief Executive of the UK’s Chartered Management Institute? Championing diversity is Ann Franke’s passion. “We need transparency with teeth,” says the author of the FT Guide To Management.

To eliminate the gender pay gap and promote more women to boards, she says companies need to do more than publish yearly updates; they need a plan to address the situation and should be held to account if they do not. Francke also wants the Financial Conduct Authority to fine companies that do not comply: “We need transparency with teeth.”

“Look at the business case for gender balance. If you miss that, you miss out on talent. As companies make efforts to promote women to the board and to senior positions their profit margins go up.”

A new report by the Fawcett Society points out that levels of general diversity in the sector are ‘shocking’. And although there has definitely been some progress, it is qualified by the fact that only eight of the chief executives of the UK’s top 100 listed companies are female – a figure that has gone down, not up, since the pandemic.

There is as yet no magic formula for success, but as WIBF approaches the next phase of Accelerating Change Together will aim to find one. The ACT 2 research programme will research women’s practical experiences in the workplace – and ask ‘what works?’.

What does Franke think? Her experience is that change is possible if management teams make it a priority.

“In my experience there are five practices that demonstrate real commitment to gender progress.

1) Companies need to track targets, and the targets need to be tied to the performance of the senior management team

2) Ensure transparency around pay and bonus coupled with gender-balanced hiring practices

3) Introduce and promote structured sponsorship programmes

4) Implement and promote truly agile working; and

5) Promote the importance of men as ‘change agents.’ “To create true gender parity means companies not simply focusing all their efforts on women – it walls off the issue, as if it only matters to women.”

Research Sources

2016 Peterson Institute for International Economics study of some 22,000 global companies.

Fawcett Society 2022 Sex and Power Index.

The FTSE Women Leaders Review.