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Why are we still talking about gender in banking

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Maria Harris12 March 2018
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Maria Harris Director of Intermediary Lending explains, because frustratingly, it's still relevant.

When I joined the industry in 2006, the number of women in senior management roles was minimal to say the least. Despite mounting evidence about the impact that diversity in the workplace has on productivity as well as the overall UK economy, and while we’ve undoubtedly made progress, there’s still work to be done.

The gender pay gap report

From April 2018, firms with more than 250 employees need to state their gender pay gap and this data will be published in their gender pay report. We didn’t publish our data because we had to, here at Atom bank we’ve always been committed to positive change in the finance sector. We want to see more women across all of our teams.

One of the first

We’re ahead of the curve and that’s why we were one of the first businesses to sign the Women in Finance Charter and to share our data – which you can read here.

We are the difference

As a new digital, technology-led bank the way we work is different – and so are our people. We’ve created a culture of inclusivity and are constantly looking at our overall diversity. We’re delivering the recommendations made by the charter like setting internal targets for our senior management team and we hope to inspire other companies to do the same. We’re conscious that we face challenges in attracting women into specific areas of our business and we want to give it the focus and attention it needs and deserves.

The STEM of the issue

While we are a bank, we are also a technology-driven business, and both finance and technology are areas which have been historically male-dominated. This isn’t something that we’re going to fix quickly. The UK has one of the lowest female workforces in STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) subjects and some of the lowest number of female students. To help tackle this we’ve signed a four-year deal with the Prince’s Trust to provide 500 local young people with STEM skills and practical support so they’ll be equipped to lead the banks and businesses of the future. It’s a significant and hands-on commitment which we think can make a difference and provide inspiration for everyone involved.

Experiencing it first hand

I know how it feels to be the only woman on a senior management team or the only one presenting at a conference. While I’m not the biggest fan of targets, there’s no denying that what gets measured gets done and things are starting to change.

As our Women in Finance champion I encourage the business to lead in this area and already Atom has sponsored and attended a number of diversity events this year. We’ve shared best practices and heard some great ideas around hiring practices, perceived differences in leadership styles between men and women, or the impact of having a diversity champion – someone who is a point of contact for women who want to progress or need a bit of support to overcome the challenges they face in their working lives.

Step by step

No matter how small the steps you take, it’s important to recognise the progress we can make and to celebrate successes along the way. We need to show that the equality and pay gap can be closed and that great opportunities do exist regardless of gender or anything else.

The more we do to recognise and promote the successful, talented and inspirational women in our teams, the more effective we’ll be in attracting women to our sector.

If the numbers do nothing more than stimulate discussion and encourage firms to take action, then they’ll have had a positive impact for the future of women in our industry.