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Banking & finance = gender + pay + gap -v- an alternative 6 step formula equation?

05 Jul 18:00 by Fiona McKay

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If you have been following the headlines you will be forgiven for thinking there seems to be some form of crisis in the Banking and Finance sector. Three words: Gender + Pay + Gap.

I am delighted to say the reporting of responses from the big players in this area, came in the form of unified contrition. With pledges to redress the balance. RBS for example committed to complete gender balance by 2030 and many others followed suit.



What if you can ensure your pipeline of leadership talent is balanced throughout the developmental journey?

For many sadly, the fear is we will shortly be resorting to quotas and diluting the talent of our C-Suites. Despite much research to the contrary, that board diversity is healthy for company performance generally, quotas frequently evoke a strong response. The fear of tokenism surfaces quickly. But what if you can ensure that your pipeline of leadership talent is balanced throughout the developmental journey?

In the body of this blog, I will take you through the key points required to ensure that your leadership talent pipeline is gender balanced and that women are truly welcomed by the banking & finance sectors board selection process. I will also be drawing heavily upon the research work for my campaign #FeedbackFirst, which I launched on International Women’s Day this year.

Step 1 – Learn from the Australians move from mentors to talent investors

I have talked before about the Australian approach to board gender diversity. Instead of having representational targets like other nations, the only objective Australians set is how many women they prepare for boards. The Australian ICD identified 50 top Chairmen and assigned them two people to mentor. These were mentored to become outstanding directors of the future.

Nurture your talent pool at every stage of their development. Effective mentors are talent investors who demonstrate a passion to listen, ask probing questions, and discern key factors contributing to how the mentee experiences situations. 

Step 2 – Examine your internal recruitment practices, particularly in relation to how feedback is given.

My research over the past 10 years revealed some startling results when it came to the delivery of feedback to our employees. It appears that unconscious bias is inherent during this vital process.  I found that women received more personality linked feedback, compared with men, who received more ‘directional feedback’. Identify where there may be feedback biases towards women at all levels which include personal, divisional and organisational. Set up focus groups and action teams to identify the types and trends of feedback women are receiving and acknowledge where they may be at a disadvantage. Who is on the bonus panel and what criteria are you using when deciding bonus payments?

Step 3 – Make a C suite business case!

Take this discussion to the top table and C-Suite as a business case issue and evidence the research to highlight a correlation between feedback, performance and equality. Gender equality should be central to business, not incidental to it. Credit Suisse found that the higher the percentage of women in top management, the greater the excess returns for shareholders.[1]Other benefits include a reduced chance of groupthink, enhanced connection to customers and access to a wider talent pool. 

Step 4 – Demand development dialogue

Invest in specific development programs and expert training to learn how to move from constructive feedback to development dialogue and communicate the improvements it will bring to workplace equality. Feedback is one of the most important tools for developing leadership talent and all too frequently it is seen as a soft skill when in fact we should be making it a ‘hard measure’. if women are not being given the same developmental feedback as men are then their progression is being hampered significantly.

Step 5 – Empower your female employees to network in different ways

Yes, women have to take some responsibility for this process. They need to be encouraged to act on developmental feedback, whilst at the same time insisting it is linked to business outcomes. Women employees should not settle for vague or personality based feedback. They also need to follow the example of their male colleagues who network successfully; picking up peer feedback, favours and visibility. Female talent needs to develop meaningful networks and improve their own visibility and growth markers. You could go some way towards helping this by facilitating cross-sector networking forums.

Step 6 – Scrutinise project-based assignments carefully

Research has shown that women in middle and senior management often feel their progress is thwarted due to the number of filler projects or stretch assignments they are given which are not directly linked to business priorities. While these might provide valuable experience, they are often time-consuming. This can mean they are overlooked for senior roles because of visibility issues or being side-lined from key business priorities. It will also impact on their share of bonuses at year end. Are you checking if there is a gender bias when it comes to issuing filler projects?

These are clear and practical steps you can follow which will help you reduce the gender pay gap in your organisation. 



Lightbulb Leadership Solutions, headed by Fiona McKay (founder of the #FeedbackFirst campaign) are ideal partners to guide you through this critical business and societal change. A market-leading solutions-based consultancy, Lightbulb helps organisations around the globe improve their people, performance, profits and parity.

They have unique solutions suite specifically for women in the workplace facing complex change, enabling and equipping them to be the authors of their own futures and unleash their leadership potential.

Lightbulb is a trusted partner of the best brands and most exciting companies in the world. Don’t just take our word for it see what our clients say about us. 



[1] https://www.credit-suisse.com/corporate/en/articles/news-and-expertise/higher-returns-with-women-in-decision-making-positions-201610.html

©Lightbulb Leadership Solutions Ltd, July 2018