International Women’s Day is the global day of celebration to recognise the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women and to promote gender equality.
As part of our coverage on this day, we asked Steph Willcox, head of Actuarial Implementation, Dynamic Planner, what the initiative means to her and her experience of the industry in the decade and more she has been working within financial services.
How important to you as an individual is International Women’s Day?
As a woman and mum to a daughter, I enjoy celebrating the achievements of women and look forward to the highlights that we get to hear about on International Women’s Day. I also think it gives us a chance to reflect on the role of gender in our society and how we might be able to support all people better.
Financial services is traditionally a male dominated market. If you look around, do you see that being challenged? If so, in what ways? If not, what do you think is holding things back?
I have the pleasure of working as an Actuary, within software, for financial services, three traditionally male dominated markets. However I see improvement in all three sectors in terms of the balance of genders. The immediate past president of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries as well as the president-elect are both women, and although qualified female actuaries only make up about 25% of the qualified actuaries in the UK, the profession is focussed on helping to retain women within the profession through it’s use of the Actuarial Mentoring Programme, which I took part in during it’s implementation in 2017.
What would you like to see FS companies do (more of) to help forge a more gender equal world?
Rather than focus on gender equality I think it’s better to focus on equity, noting that different employees have different needs of an employer, and aiming to support all employees, regardless of gender.
The rise of flexible working following the pandemic has provided the ability for employees to balance their home life and professional life like never before, however we see some employers slipping back to dictating time spent in the office. It’s been widely studied that remote and hybrid workers have less stress and more focus with increased flexibility more beneficial to the physical and mental wellbeing of employees.
One of the particular themes of International Women’s Day 2023 is to ‘build workplaces where women thrive’. What would you like to see companies do to help achieve this end?
If we assume that employers are embracing the flexibility that hybrid working can offer, then we still need to address the gender pay gap. In April 2022 the gender pay gap for full-time employees was 8.3%.
Ensuring that pay is not related to gender is important, as well as offering the same training and development to all employees, regardless of gender. Particular focus should be given to women who have had time out of the workforce to raise children or care for others to ensure that they are able to regain the time lost and recover their remuneration to their peer equivalents.
In many cases time spent out of the workforce contributes to a person’s learning and development, most evidenced by softer skills useful in management and leadership positions, and should not put them at a disadvantage in their career.
Have you experienced a dynamic workplace culture which fully embraces equality?
I am grateful to work for Dynamic Planner, a company which fully embraces hybrid working and supports me to be able to maintain a full-time career and a hectic family life.
What do you feel we need in FS to achieve a better environment for all genders?
Understanding the needs of employees and acting in ways to meet them should be high on the list of every employer as our knowledge of mental health grows in order to get the best out of all employees, inside and outside of financial services.
We should also look outside of the employee spectrum to help financial services support their clients across genders and making the world of financial advice more accessible for all.
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