Practice Strategies

Gender Equality And Wealth Management – The Challenge To Do Better

Grant Parkinson 11 March 2024

Gender Equality And Wealth Management – The Challenge To Do Better

Following International Women's Day, this article from Standard Chartered explains what the UK-listed bank is doing in the field of gender equality in its business, and the lessons to be learned.

Last Friday was International Women’s Day – about which the editor of this news service has thoughts. In view of that, we are pleased to share the following article from Grant Parkinson, head of consumer, private and business banking, Europe, Standard Chartered and co-chair of Standard Chartered–’s employee resources group on gender equality. Parkinson is, among other positions, a member of this publication’s editorial board. We are delighted to share these insights. The usual editorial disclaimers apply. Jump into the conversation! Email 

Grant Parkinson

Gender equality: Challenging ourselves to do better and faster.  
International Women’s Day always brings a welcome outpouring of appreciation and support for women across all facets of our industry. It provides a focus point, a rallying cry – a powerful lever for advocacy, awareness, and action, inspiring us all to push harder and faster for gender equality. 

Standard Chartered has long recognised the importance of a diverse workforce, not just for reasons of equity and fairness, but also economics. Financial services is dependent on innovation and diversity of thought so, having more women in our organisation allows us to come up with fresh ideas and explore different perspectives which, in turn, lead to better business performance, employee satisfaction and, importantly, better outcomes for our clients.   

Nearly half of our employees are women, but to move the needle on gender equity takes more than just hiring more women and promising equal pay. We believe a supportive culture of inclusion is necessary, hinged on how each of us, through our actions and words, impact the experiences of our female colleagues, clients, and communities on the other 364 days of the year. 

Breaking down barriers
The biggest challenge in banking remains the numbers of women in leadership positions. We are pushing hard to increase opportunities for women to move up and, since signing the UK HM Treasury Women in Finance Charter in 2016, we have seen a steady rise in the numbers of female colleagues stepping into leadership roles. 

More broadly, we have looked long and hard at all the things we do to encourage more women into our ranks as well as how we retain the great women already working with us. We have enhanced our parental leave and flexible working policies and introduced a comprehensive package of support for those undergoing the menopause, making sure that female colleagues feel supported at every stage of their career. We also offer female-focused leadership programmes and, for those looking for a new challenge, the opportunity to reskill into new roles. Private banking is a great example of this. The key skill we look for in hires is the ability to build relationships, which open up opportunities to a broader group of individuals, not just those with an interest or background in finance. 

We have also looked outside our traditional recruitment pipeline. Our local community engagement programmes have improved our understanding of what we can do to be more inclusive and open the industry to more girls from underserved communities, resulting in the expansion of our UK apprenticeship programme.

No man left behind
Don’t get the impression that female colleagues have been left to steer the response alone. Men have long been part of the narrative – invited in as allies and advocates. I believe it is impossible to make progress in an industry where men traditionally outnumber women without engaging male colleagues. More of us need to get onboard and use our influence to forge greater inclusion. This is not just conjecture. According to research from Boston Consulting Group, when men deliberately engage in gender inclusion 96 per cent of organisations see progress compared with 30 per cent where men are not engaged. (1) 

I currently serve as co-chair of Standard Chartered’s employee resources group on gender equality. It is a position I am incredibly proud of and, together with a cohort of 11 volunteer change makers, we have been encouraging increasing numbers of male colleagues to step up and step in. This has included a programme of Allyship Training designed to help male colleagues understand what they can do to role model inclusive leadership behaviours. 

It has certainly helped me appreciate the importance of sharing my personal story with colleagues – whether it is talking about the school drop off or sharing how I shaped my career so that I could take time out when my daughters were born. It is essential that my colleagues have the confidence and feel able to make those same choices – bringing their full self to work without fear of prejudice. 

More broadly, the bank recently held a menopause male ally workshop, aimed at dismantling the culture of silence over the menopause. The event provided male colleagues with a safe space to gain knowledge on the impact of the menopause as well as tips on how to have conversations with female colleagues. Hosted by our UK chief executive, Saif Malik and attended by more than 200 male colleagues, the event has since triggered the creation of a menopause network of male allies to amplify the voices and elevate the experiences of women within our business.  

Lifting global participation 
But gender equality is not just about lifting the women closest to us. It is about justice for half the world’s population, many of whom live in the communities we serve. 

Since 2016 we have provided life skills education through sport and activity-based learning to more than a million girls from underserved communities, across 20 of our markets. Equipping them with the confidence, knowledge, and skills they need to be economic leaders in their families and their communities is an achievement we are all incredibly proud of, but we must not stop now. 

As we take time this month to celebrate the brilliant women breaking new ground and reflect on the progress made, we must not lose sight of how much there is still to do. There is no time for complacency, the work isn’t over yet. 



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