Lloyds Banking Group has made a commitment to lead the way on promoting women in the banking industry. Fiona Cannon explains how the bank plans to make it work
Research suggests that at the current rate of change, it will take more than 70 years to achieve gender-balanced boardrooms in the UK’s largest 100 companies. At Lloyds Banking Group, we think that’s too slow for the talented women who work with us. We are making a commitment to deliver change much sooner, as part of our Helping Britain Prosper Plan.
Our aim is to lead the way in the banking industry, as well as to become the first FTSE company to fully reflect the diversity of our customers in the management of our group. Diversity is vital to our organisation, given the reach of our operations: through our branch network we have the potential to reach every community in the UK. This means we have an incredibly diverse range of customers with many differing needs and we recognise the importance of reflecting that diversity in our workforce.
We intend to achieve long-term sustainable change, ensuring that at least 40% of our 8,000 top jobs are occupied by women by 2020. This figure currently stands at 27%. We know it is a challenging target, but we believe it can be achieved by working towards identifying and understanding the obstacles that can stop women and men from reaching their full potential, and then removing these obstacles completely.
Part of the challenge is creating supply in the corporate pipeline. Our goal is therefore to build a pipeline of suitably qualified women who can take on executive roles. This will take time, and involves focusing on career development early on. We know there are a number of key points in a woman’s career when is too easy for them to fall off – and stay off – the career ladder.
Our commitment is to reflect the diversity of our customer base and communities more closely. We want to blaze a trail for our industry to become more gender diverse, but we will only be able to achieve our goal if we create a meritocratic organisation for all colleagues. So our work will be looking at how we attract, develop and retain a range of diverse talent, not just women.
One of the biggest obstacles s the traditional working model on which most organisations are based: Nine to five, five days a week. Start work at 16, retire at 60. Commute into offices in the town centre. Follow a linear career path.
This model no longer reflects the lives we are living.
For a start, we’re all living and working longer. This model particularly fails to reflect the lives of many women who, for example, may take time out when they have children and end up taking a more “zig-zag approach” to their careers.
If our working lives are going to span 50 or even 60 years in the future, shouldn’t organisations be able to accommodate colleagues taking time out (whatever the reason) without it having a detrimental impact on their long-term career?
In order to help change this picture, we will be taking a fundamental look at how we recruit, develop and retain our staff and ensure that our systems and processes reflect the reality of people’s lives today.
As a starting point, we are providing support for all colleagues, so that they understand what we are doing, why we are doing it and how they can help us deliver our goal. For example, we recently ran a programme on unconscious bias, where line managers can learn how bias can affect their decisions and understand how to prevent this happening.
We also have programmes designed to support the development of women. These include our Sponsoring Leaders programme, where women and ethnic minorities with high potential are sponsored by a more senior executive. Sponsors provide advice and support, but also introduce contacts, flag up important opportunities and ensure the individual stays on track.
This work is supported by our Role Model Programme, where colleagues can get advice from managers and senior managers. In addition, we have a “comply or explain policy” regarding women on shortlists for senior roles, and we run a high-profile women’s network called Breakthrough.
On 6 March, we will be launching our 2014 Responsible Business Report, detailing how far we’ve come in our ambition to be the best bank for customers, as well as laying out our plan to Help Britain Prosper.
Our target to achieve a more diverse workforce by 2020 is just one of a number of commitments focusing on the issues that affect households across the UK. Progress will be measured annually and independently verified.
While each individual commitment will make a difference, I believe that together, they are game-changing. We believe our Helping Britain Prosper Plan will help deliver a step-change in regaining positive public sentiment and trust in our industry.
Fiona Cannon OBE is director of diversity and inclusion at Lloyds Banking Group
Source: The Guardian – http://www.theguardian.com/women-in-leadership/2014/feb/05/lloyds-helping-britain-prosper-gender-diversity
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