Diversity and inclusion is a hot topic in every sector at the moment, and for good reason. Not only is it the moral thing to do, but it has been proved time and again that diversity is good for business. Plus, pressure from governments, the public and society in general means that organisations need to have D&I at the top of the agenda. This has been no different for the banking and financial services sector.

Diversity and Inclusion or Inclusion & Diversity?  

A growing trend I’ve witnessed in the sector is the tendency to focus more on inclusion than diversity. This shift is sometimes purposeful, with organisations attempting to create a culture of inclusion that promotes a work environment which embraces all differences and ensures that all voices and opinions can be heard and valued. Other times this occurs more naturally, in response to an increasingly diverse team.

While many businesses start the conversation from a diversity perspective – with a focus particularly on gender and race – it can be difficult to measure other factors which contribute to diversity, for example economic background, sexual orientation and religion. Employers are not allowed to ask questions about these topics, and rightly so, but this does mean that the answer to “how diverse is your organisation?” is not one that is easily answered.

It is also perhaps not the right question. Organisations have come to the realisation that diversity only improves businesses when the company culture allows diverse thinking; it’s no good having a highly diverse workforce if their voices cannot be heard. Instead, creating a culture of inclusion promotes the diversity which already exists within an organisation and increases the likelihood of a more diverse business in the future by (a) encouraging those from diverse backgrounds to apply and (b) allowing those with hiring power to perceive differences in opinion as a positive.

Rethinking diversity and inclusion in financial services Infographic_v2

Who does “diversity” include?

There’s a lot of evidence to show that improvements have been made when it comes to gender diversity on the boards of businesses in the financial services sector. This kind of representation has also probably received the most attention as a whole, particularly considering the publicity given to the gender pay gap and subsequent government legislation to make this information more visible. There’s also been some strides towards reporting on the ethnicity pay gap, although fewer actions seem to have been taken considering these reports in comparison to gender diversity, perhaps because – within the context of legal gender pay gap reporting – gender is a binary, creating a straightforward 50/50 target.  It will be interesting to see how transgender or non – binary will affect this in the future?

As the average retirement age gets higher and generation Z enters the workforce, there has been a greater focus on age diversity and discrimination. Conversations that centred around managing millennials have now been replaced with talk about the multi-generational workforce. I’ve also witnessed more people concerned about mental health and disability – both visible and unseen.

Our understanding of the factors that should be considered in building a diverse workforce has broadened and this, I think, is another reason that organisations are beginning to put inclusion first. An inclusive culture naturally encourages a more diverse workforce, and creates a working environment, which everyone feels valued, that their contribution matters, and they are able to perform to their full potential, no matter their background, identity or circumstances.  As outlined on the CIPD website “ Inclusion is where those differences ares seen as a benefit, and where perspectives and differences are shared leading to better decisions” In addition, it also creates the right environment for all individuals to discuss the various challenges which may affect they way they work.

A measure of success?

The next step on from this is to ask if our current form of measuring diversity is the best way forward. Does it really matter for example, if a board is 60/40 gender (split either way) if everyone on the board are heard, valued and respected? That’s not a question I can answer, but if we continue to focus on inclusion then I can’t help thinking that we need to find a way to record how individuals feel about diversity in the workplace. Surely the way all employees are treated is as important as how much they are paid?

We’re at a pivotal moment with diversity and inclusion and in order to determine the next best steps we must be bold in open and difficult conversations. In order to play a part for those who are able to influence this in financial services, Carmichael Fisher have arranged a networking evening for c. 70 guests with Jan Gooding.

Jan is one of the best known and and one of the highest regarded Marketing leaders in the UK.  After working for many years at Board level with two successful marketing consultancies; antennae and BLUEdooR, she continued her executive career with BT British Gas and Aviva.  After leaving last year, she now enjoys an archetypal portfolio career.  Whilst she is perhaps best known for championing LBGT equality as Chair of Stonewall, she is ultimately an active campaigner for inclusive workplaces for everyone.


By Juliet Hardingham, Senior Consultant

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Juliet Hardingham

Senior Consultant

As part of the financial services practice Juliet Hardingham works with a team of experts who support clients globally in four primary segments which are: Insurance & Insurtech, Retail and Challenger Banking, Payments & FinTech and Private Equity.