Emily Cox is the Director of Public Affairs at Virgin Money, where she led the team responsible for the Gadhia Review into the representation of women in senior managerial roles in the financial services industry. In January 2018 Emily became a member of the Chartered Institute of Insurance cross industry task force on insuring women’s risk. Emily is a member of the board of the Newcastle Gateshead Initiative and the London Women’s Forum.
Emily Cox MBE
Emily Cox MBE
Better gender balance is not just a women’s issue, it’s an issue affecting everyone...

Emily is also a member of the board at The Sage Gateshead an international music venue in the North East of England. She works part time and was on the Timewise Ones to Watch list 2017. She was awarded ‘Woman of the Year’ in the Women in Finance Awards 2017.

You were heavily involved in the Gadhia report, ‘Empowering Productivity: Harnessing the Talents of women in Financial Services’, what was your role in that?

I led the Virgin Money team responsible for the Gadhia Review into the representation of women in senior managerial roles in the financial services industry. I continue to work closely with HM Treasury to continue promoting the benefits of the Women in Finance Charter and encourage financial services companies to sign up. I also set up the Women in Finance industry board which supports signatories to the Charter in meeting their targets.

Were any of the outcomes surprising to you?

There is ‘perma-frost’ in the middle management layers of financial services companies, beyond which women choose either not to progress or they leave the sector all together. I hadn’t realised how stark the numbers were. At middle management level only 25% of roles are held by women. And at the Executive level only 14% of roles are held by women, leaving almost all of the top jobs in the hands of men.

What was the most rewarding part of the process for you?

Seeing the Women in Finance Charter and its aims being championed by powerful men, like the Governor of the Bank of England and many male CEOs. Better gender balance is not just a women’s issue, it’s an issue affecting everyone because better gender balance is good for business and good for society.

If you could wave a magic wand, what one thing would you change tomorrow to improve gender diversity in banking and financial services?

I’d make sure more women have access to commercial and profit generating roles. Experience of those areas is an important factor in reaching Executive level – and the fact is not enough women get that opportunity.

You’ve just been awarded an MBE for services to gender diversity in Financial Services, congratulations! How did that feel? Do you know in advance you were nominated or was the letter a surprise?

I had no idea and it was a complete surprise. It’s not something I’d ever contemplated, but it’s great to see the Women in Finance work being recognised, especially in the centenary year of (some) women gaining the vote.

Who have been your role models as you have progressed through your career?

When I started out in private practice as a trainee solicitor many years ago, I worked for an amazing female partner. She could simultaneously be on the phone to a barrister, paint her nails and still listen and coach me on what I was saying to my client. She became the managing partner of the law firm, she had three children and every day she took them and their cousins to school. Her husband had a busy high profile job, but she made work work for her and she made time for everyone.

What professional ambitions do you have left?

I have always been motivated by a life-long belief in social justice and social progression. As a result, I have always taken jobs that have interested me and have enabled me to make a difference – and I want to make sure I continue doing that.

What advice would you give to young women starting out on their careers?

There is no such thing as ‘bad experience’ - it is all experience that will make you wiser. Take your chances when they come and build your networks.

What importance do you place on networks for women? Do you think there will ever be a time they are not needed?

Networks are the bedrock of professional success. Nobody succeeds from a vacuum. Perhaps networks will evolve as we progress towards a gender balanced financial services sector, but networks for women are an important champion for change and support the removal of barriers.

If you were stranded on a desert Island, which three people would you like to be stranded with?

Jenni Murray because she would entertain me for hours with her extensive knowledge and calming tones.

Laura Kuenssberg would have great stories.

And my husband who I am confident would build a boat from scratch to get us all off the island when we’d had enough.