Lessons the sector learned from IWD

By Andy Rich, managing partner at HW Fisher

Earlier this month, we celebrated International Women’s Day. This year’s theme was #BreaktheBias, a campaign to break stereotypes across communities, workplaces, and schools, colleges and universities.  

While financial services has traditionally been a male dominated industry, it’s positive to see that since 2016, all accountancy bodies worldwide have seen an increase in female members. This is good progress, however it’s important that these women have the same access to opportunities as their male counterparts to progress into more senior roles. A survey in 2019 of the UK’s largest accounting firms found that while 42% of women held managerial positions, only 17% of women were partners. This is clearly something that our industry needs to work on. 

From small changes to make women feel more included, to more systemic changes, I believe we all have a role to play.

Keep the conversation going all year around

A simple but effective way to start creating a more inclusive culture is to encourage conversations internally. Ahead of International Women’s Day, we asked each of our Partners how they are working to break the bias for women in the workplace. Sharing a handful of the team’s responses below:

  • “Working with the person rather than the gender ensures you work with the best possible individual” – Simon Michaels
  • “Helping to create a culture of belonging and calling out gender stereotyping” – Carol Rudge
  • “Ensuring gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow. We want to be a firm where one can #BreakTheBias by creating awareness and ensuring inclusion of all genders” – Lily Montgomery
  • “Foster an atmosphere of everyone being treated as equals” – Simon Mott-Cowan
  • “I aim to break the bias against women in the workplace by advocating for more women in senior roles within the firm. Through supporting flexible working arrangements and promoting a culture of meritocracy, I hope we are able to attract and retain female talent, in order to continue to advance diversity and equality throughout the firm.” – Darshna Choudhury

It’s important to foster an open culture of discussion and learning all year around – not only on the 8th March. Helping to educate all levels of the firm, both men and women, to understand how inequality works and defining more closely the standard that is expected is the first step to making your business more inclusive.

Value and support flexible working arrangements

A practical step that can help level the playing field for female colleagues is to support flexible working arrangements. The pandemic has proven that nearly all firms can be run very successfully remotely and traditional working hours have also changed for many businesses. Maintaining this flexibility will continue to help all employees that have caring commitments.

While many are opting to return to the office, employers should also ensure that those who are choosing to continue working from home feel as included, and more importantly, that their achievements are equally as celebrated and recognised as those on-site. 

Supporting women outside of your organisation

Businesses should not only focus on improving the D&I of their own organisation but take action to help accelerate women across the entire industry.

At HW Fisher, we are proud to be members of the WealthiHer Network, a network of firms and businesses championing female investors, entrepreneurs and clients. We share the WealthiHer Network’s values and are proud to be part of a mission to drive the economic advancement and empowerment of women on a global scale. 

While it is an external initiative, it’s important for us that our female employees know that the business they work for is an active ally and committed to achieving equality for all women.

To summarise, we know that women undoubtedly play an equal part in making an organisation successful, and we are delighted to be appointing and promoting more female partners which will strengthen our leadership team. 

International Women’s Day is an annual important reminder that by making our firm a more equal workplace, HW Fisher and its clients will benefit immeasurably – but the conversation and importantly, the action, doesn’t stop there.

By Andy Rich, managing partner at HW Fisher

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