IWD 2021: how is private banking promoting women and inclusion?

International Women’s Day, or IWD 2021, is focused around the theme #ChooseToChallenge and private banking is getting involved.  According to its website: “We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.” Patrick Brusnahan writes


any are striking the Choose To Challenge pose, holding a hand up, on IWD 2021, but how is private banking challenging inequality?

Gail McCourt, head of private client fiduciary services, RBC Wealth Management International

With the IWD 2021 theme being ‘Choose to Challenge’, it is a great time to reflect on how challenging COVID-19 has been for women in the workplace and banking.

We are all too aware that women across the world have been negatively affected by the pandemic whether through lay-off, furlough or additional expectations at home. Having to home-school with little support available whilst still working, has led in some instances to careers stalling and financial security being jeopardised.

Research has shown that women are less likely than men to apply for positions they feel are too challenging or where roles are advertised through a masculine lens. Within RBC, we strive to have balanced gender representation on promotion panels and in the candidates we interview for advertised positions.

As the theme ‘Choose to Challenge’ suggests, each of us needs to start by challenging ourselves, define what it is that we want, push ourselves to think beyond what we might view as our boundaries and think about how to demonstrate our potential.

Equally as important, we need to challenge others and ask tough questions: how do we ensure the creation of leadership opportunities available to everyone? How do we ensure diversity of thought in talent management and career progression? If the past year has shown us anything, it’s that change can be accelerated where there is a willingness and a need.

We are at a crossroads and the choices that we make today will have consequences for society for decades to come.

Eilidh Anderson, vice president – investment management, Kingswood

IWD 2021 coincides with the approaching end of the tax year and it is an opportune time not only to celebrate progress in banking but to take a proactive approach towards planning for your financial future. According to Joan Baker’s book ‘A Man Is Not a Financial Plan: Investing for wealth and independence’, statistically women over the age of 65 are more likely to live alone and if they do, they are likely to be less financially savvy.

In addition to this, research from Prospect shows that despite a gender pay gap of 17.3%, the gender pension gap is actually 40.3% which translates to an average difference in pension income by gender of about £7,500 a year. It is therefore important that women of all ages use this time of year to consider not only saving but investing for their long term future. Having a clear financial plan and investment strategy can help ensure you can create enough wealth to meet your short and long term goals.

At Kingswood we take pride in helping our clients plan for their future and aim to reflect their ever changing and diverse needs in the way that we recruit new members of staff now and in the future.

Ana Quirós, director of employee relations, culture and development, CaixaBank

At CaixaBank, 41.6% of managerial positions are held by women, and 42.8% of the Board of Directors are female, one of the highest percentages in the sector. We continue working in this way, promoting equality and meritocracy as the best way to face up to the challenges in the field of diversity.”

Although Spain is a leader in terms of the number of women in fund management, and this is a figure that increases year after year, the speed of change is still very slow. Women in this field must be made visible, highlighting their work and careers, so that other women can also be recognised and these percentages can continue to grow, helping to combat unconscious biases and gender stereotypes that still exist both in this sector and in others, such as STEM careers. CaixaBank’s commitment is not limited to the bank’s own scope, but also in promoting the value of diversity and equal opportunities among the rest of society.

Astrud Lotz,

head of HR, ZEDRA

By celebrating International Women’s Day, we are reminded to continue to challenge the status quo and aspire to gender equality. The same responsibilities and opportunities should be offered to everyone, regardless of gender, religion and ethnicity, and having the right skill sets should be the only thing that matters when advancing in one’s career. Strong collaboration between women and men often leads to success stories; ZEDRA is just one example. Women should not be afraid to dream big and find their place in a male-dominated world. We all have our part to play in breaking with archaic views and ending forms of discrimination vis-à-vis women, both in the workforce and at home.

Being a woman at ZEDRA means being a member of the majority; our company is comprised of 60% females and 40% males. Senior boards and directorships have a healthy proportion of women who provide different perspectives to the boards. Our strapline, #One Team #One Company, not only refers to our multi-geographic, multi-solutions group but also strongly echoes our inclusive and diverse company.

Alex Foster, director of insurance, wealth management and financial services, BT

In a traditionally male-dominated industry like wealth management, it is impossible for progress to be made in gender diversity without engaging men. While some progress has undoubtedly been made to include women over the past few years, studies show that we still have a long way to go before we reach gender equality in the workplace, with the challenge increasingly being the lack of women in leadership positions. To drive change in the industry, active engagement from men is necessary. We need men and people of all genders to advocate for women to enable them to step in and step up.

There is a strong business imperative for doing so: a report by the International Finance Corporation found that gender-balanced senior investment teams generate 10-20% higher returns compared with funds where the gender balance is skewed. To create a gender-diverse company that attracts women and promotes them into leadership positions, I believe that we need to engage men in initiatives that make the workplace more equitable, including flexible working arrangements. To ensure more diverse representation at the top levels of management, men need to be advocates for women and challenge the status quo.