Reflections of the CEO

Diversity & Inclusion | HRM Queen Elizabeth II

Over the past two weeks, those of us in the UK and across the rest of the world, have witnessed an outpouring of grief and emotion following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. As the page of history turns, much has been said about her legacy and how she defined the Elizabethan age. Whilst future historians look back at her reign and what the many layers of that legacy brought for us all, one common thread already highlighted, that transcends everything she did, was that of service. Her unwavering devotion to her duties, and her dedication to serving the people of the United Kingdom as well as the wider Commonwealth may be considered qualities from another age, but I would argue that they are still truly relevant today as they have ever been.

At the helm of a small industry association, I am always mindful of how important it is that we recognise differing views and work towards consensus on often contentious issues. It is no surprise to me therefore, that the Queen was often referred to as one of the most accomplished diplomats on the world stage – one from whom we can learn about both diplomacy and soft power. My key message at a recent town hall also echoed this sentiment about the importance of service. Our main priority and purpose is ultimately to serve our members, and represent the best interests of our industry at large; whilst the context maybe different, the objective remains consistent.

Whilst her reign saw many fundamental changes to our society and the way we live our lives, one of the most notable to my mind was also the changing role of women in our society and in particular the workplace. In 1953, women represented only a third of the workforce, whereas today its almost half. Similarly, and at the same time, only one in six mothers with young children were in the workforce, whereas today it is very much the norm. Whilst the world had become a much more equitable and fairer place for women in this regard, there is still much to-do from a broader diversity and inclusion perspective.

Earlier this week, I was privileged to be part of an informal networking session organised jointly by Sharegain and the Women in Securities Finance network. Upon arrival, there were two things that immediately struck me – despite many comments to the contrary, the considerable number of female representatives from within our industry, but also how few of them I actually recognised or knew. This to my mind says a number of things about our industry as well as financial services more broadly. Firstly, it is clear there is still hierarchical rigidity within many organisations that prevents the development of often informal networks (including mentors) that can help with the development of new and diverse talent. The Bank of England has an ongoing initiative around meeting new and diverse people, with an overarching desire to be as representative in terms of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and creed, as the communities that it serves. As an important part of the financial services community, these are the sort of aspirational targets we should all be reaching for.

Looking closer to home, many of the people I spoke to earlier in the week expressed a desire to participate in more of our events. This was a question that I was somewhat surprised at, as I have always thought of  ISLA as an inclusive and forward looking organisation. When this question was asked of me several times however, I began to think the problem may well lie elsewhere. Whilst we continue to sponsor and promote the equitable participation of all delegates in our working groups and associated streams, as well as explore alternative candidates in pursuit of a diverse mix of panellists, speakers and moderators at all of our events, gender diversity patterns in terms of attendance at our events at least, still appear to correlate with many of the stereotypes traditionally associated with our industry.

In response to this and in recognition of the pivotal role that ISLA can play in terms of engendering change, Tina Baker, who heads up our legal services area, has been recently appointed as the Association’s Lead in this area. Working with both internal and external stakeholders, including relevant interest groups, Tina will continue to monitor and champion key ideas and initiatives across the industry, as part of ISLA’s own Corporate Social Responsibility strategy.

Andrew Dyson

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