#ChangetheRatio: why diversity at the top is still a conversation

Statistics show that only 17% of the ICT sector and 23% of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) workforce in the UK are women - and at lower than a 1:5 ratio, significantly less than most other sectors. Worse still, this figure actually reflects a stall in female representation in the technology sector in the last decade.

The future of women in tech is looking bright but the future of diversity isn’t so during the recent Digital Leaders, WIBF and Lloyds Banking Group Women’s Summit, we have been debating passionately how we can better support more talented women to pursue and excel their careers. The key to this for me is threefold; unlock female capital; raise the talent bar and show that diversity is synonymous with success.

Unlock Female Capital

A 2015 global institute study by McKinsey found that advancing women’s equality in the workplace could add at least $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025 . Women account for half of the world’s working-age population, yet the gap between men and women in the workplace remains large. This shows that gender diversity is no longer just a social issue, it’s an economic opportunity. And there is much to do as the World Economic Forum Gender Gap index has shifted into reverse for the first time since its creation in 2006 .

In addition to promoting opportunities for women to enter the workforce, it is also important to continually support women to stay in employment with modern working patterns. This can enable ‘women returners’ – women who have taken breaks due to family or other reasons, to avoid the career break penalty and return to their full potential in the workplace. PWC data shows this in turn could generate £1.7 billion for the UK economy.

We debated during the summit on world role models taking advantage of this new talent available to progress your competition and growth with the Nordics countries leading the way: Iceland, Norway, Finland, Rwanda, and Sweden . The United Kingdom ranks 15 with the Financial Services industry leading in the UK, closely followed by Legal and Professional Services as per their representation in the Top 50 employers for women by the Times in 2017. At Lloyds Banking Group, we have made strides in becoming more agile for all colleagues. We promote an agile working environment to help colleagues work more productively, offer flexible working for people who want to work part-time or with caring responsibilities such as job-share and we constantly seek and implement feedback from colleagues, as we can’t stand still and need to best fit their needs.

Raise the talent bar through diversity

I feel that fair competition inspires better performance. Challenger banks in the UK help raise the bar for customer experience by offering opportunities for innovation across the industry and I believe same is true of diversity. Diverse organisations offer a level playing field where the key differentials come down to talent and performance, raising the bar of our leaders. Strong leadership in turn has significant benefits for colleagues, customers and the future of the industry.

Gender equality is not only the right thing to do but it also better represents the customer base - 51% of Lloyds Banking Group customers are female. We have progressive leadership, with our CEO announcing a target to have 40% of senior roles carried out by women by the year 2020 and a proactive gender shortlisting ethos in our Transformation division – we want to see strong, qualified and capable men and women at interview.

And more importantly we welcomed all gender to support the agenda. Our diversity sponsor is a ‘manbassador’- a man who wants every person to live to his or her fullest potential. Our organisations will only be truly diverse when they offer an inclusive culture led from the top. This is just a flavour of how we push for diversity and I strongly encourage other industry leaders to adopt this mind-set too.

Diversity is synonymous with success

There are significant rewards for diverse organisations – McKinsey research shows that companies with high gender diversity perform around 15% better financially. However, Forbes contributor cites 2016 data showing some of the most prolific tech players have less than 20% of women making up their workforce - Apple has 20%; Google has 17%, while Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter have 16.6%, 15% and 10% respectively. in 2017, there was only one woman to lead a tech IPO alongside 11 others across industries predominantly in pharmaceutical companies is the US. To build economies that are inclusive and diverse, we need to ensure equal opportunities.

The percentages in leadership roles is even lower, with Gartner reporting that women only occupy 11.2% of technology leadership roles in Europe. When I graduated from IT engineering, this figure was and felt much lower. At Lloyds Banking Group, we partnered with women of the future to create the ‘Women of the Future Ambassador Programme’ which connect students with roles models and strengthen the pipeline of talent among Britain’s younger women. We aim to demystify the stigma around digital and technology careers amongst others and encourages women to be entrepreneurs. We also sponsor the Women in Fintech list by Innovate finance and turned our London Digital Hub as the shelter of #FemTechLeader.

I would love to see this work furthered with the addition of more role model programmes, more opportunities to become a CEO and go through the funding rounds as part of a wider institute able to track performance data of diverse organisation into the future. I believe that with a greater profile of this issue and by everyone taking responsibility to champion women in the workplace, we can address gender imbalance in the areas where we observe most injustice and hopefully, finally #changetheratio.

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