The UK will become a more attractive and competitive place to do business if firms embrace equity and diversity, the Financial Conduct Authority has said.
Outlining how it believes diversity and inclusion are essential for healthy firm cultures, the City watchdog said there is growing evidence that a “diversity of perspectives and thought, when part of an inclusive culture, results in better judgements and decision making”.
Sharing her experience for International Women’s Day yesterday (March 8), Sarah Pritchard, executive director of markets at the FCA, said she has faced many gendered assumptions about her ability throughout her career.
There is nothing like young children and an addiction to coffee to make international travel across time zones relatively straightforward
From a family of mainly teachers, Pritchard said she never thought she would end up as an executive director in financial regulation.
“I tried teaching English to six to 14 year old Hungarian children when I left school. They did not learn much English from me but at least there are a group of millennials in Hungary who know all the lyrics to the Spice Girls’ B-sides and De-La-Soul,” Pritchard said.
Commenting on the barriers she faced in her career, Pritchard said: “I have had seniors tell me very firmly you can’t have children and a career – when taking on a new job with two children under three.
“I’ve faced assumptions that I wouldn’t travel internationally with young children, when in my experience there is nothing like young children and an addiction to coffee to make international travel across time zones relatively straightforward.”
Pritchard attributes part of her success to the men and women who believed in her and encouraged her along the way.
“They have given me opportunity, and courage to try new things. They have shared a coffee with me, as well as thoughts on how to navigate children and career.
“I have taken opportunities where they have presented themselves and built strong teams behind me, so that they could deliver and thrive, not just survive, without me,” Pritchard said.
She added: “I admit it takes a certain amount of energy and confidence to do that, but building strong teams behind me has enabled me to take opportunities I would never have envisaged.”
In Pritchard’s view, all staff in financial services firms have a role to play in driving change and making the sector more inclusive and equitable.
“We can do this by asking questions, by challenging whether our organisations are driving change, by focusing on data, by highlighting good practice, by looking at our talent pipelines.
“At a personal level we can share our stories, speak up on behalf of others and get to know the people we work with. We cannot truly focus on equity if we do not know our people,” she said.
The regulator has taken an increased focus on diversity reporting in recent years.
However, data on the ethnicity of staff in the financial advice sector remains uncollected.
Back in January, the FCA responded to a request from FTAdviser and said it does not “not collect any information on ethnicity for approved individuals”.
Last year, the regulator finalised rules that require listed companies to report on the representation of women and minority ethnic groups on their boards from April 1 2022.
Pritchard noted that positive change is already evident.
FTSE 350 companies hit their target to have 40 per cent women on boards last week, three years ahead of schedule.
“In making diversity and inclusion a priority for the firms we regulate, we are also challenging ourselves to improve and do things differently too,” Pritchard said.
The FCA is scheduled to publish its consultation paper on diversity and inclusion in the financial sector later this year.