To celebrate International Women’s Day, Bethany Dudley, Director and Head of Strategic Partnerships at Foresight Group discusses her role in the financial services industry.
Have you seen the environment change for women working in financial services since you first started out in your career?
When I first started working at Foresight in 2007 there seemed to be very few women in the industry and if there were, they tended to be in lower-level administration or investor relations-based roles.
Certain job roles such as investment management and sales positions were dominated by men and the environment and framework didn’t encourage women to apply for certain positions.
Overtime, the environment has changed, and companies such as Foresight have implemented changes in their recruitment process to actively encourage women to apply for roles across the business. I now see women in junior and senior positions across all departments within Foresight and the wider industry.
Why might boosting greater gender diversity in financial services businesses be a win-win?
At Foresight in particular we have noticed that this allows a more varied approach, and one that explores and considers all possible options, has to lead to better outcomes. Combining female and male views and thoughts is the best way to achieve this. I often find myself in a room of men and I’m able to offer a different approach or opinion that they hadn’t thought of, which ultimately leads to an alternative (and better) overall outcome. Women often think differently to men and vice versa and this should be considered a strength in any organisation.
Does operating a more inclusive culture help financial services business recruit/retain talented team members?
Definitely. If your company operates a more inclusive culture, you also will attract and retain a more diverse range of individuals, not just from a gender perspective but also people of different ages, ethnicities, social classes and backgrounds across the world. People will feel more comfortable sending in their CVs and applying for roles within your company. They will also feel more confident at the interview stage and be able to demonstrate their talent to you. A company will retain those individuals for a longer period of time as they will feel secure and part of the organisation, rather than an outsider looking in.
Is the move to more flexible, hybrid and remote working options likely to support greater gender diversity within financial services businesses?
Whilst hiring with diversity in mind has allowed us to attract a greater array of talent, the move to flexible working has allowed us to retain the talent as well. More flexible working is a very positive outcome of the pandemic for working women, particularly for those with children. As I sit writing this response, it’s 9pm and I had to leave the office early to get home to bath and bed my 18-month-old son as my husband has caught COVID. When I left the office, it was agreed that I would probably be working from home for the rest of the week and no one batted an eye lid and I feel completely comfortable doing so with no impact on my work or career. Foresight has been incredibly supportive since I have returned to work full-time from maternity leave in October 2022 and senior management have been exceptionally understanding of all the ups and downs that come with working and trying to bring up a child. This makes you want to work even harder and deliver better results for the company.
I believe Foresight is capitalising on maternity and childcare services. It has enhanced its maternity, paternity, and shared parental leave policies to ensure staff are supported and has introduced a still birth and miscarriage policy to support any staff that this affects. It has also implemented a tax efficient nursey scheme, which has had a great uptake, and has been much appreciated by many employees who are parents.
Foresight is committed to several initiatives to support greater gender diversity. It has been a member of the Women in Finance Charter since 2018 and is making progress towards its target of 30% of females in senior positions by 2030. It is also part of the Investing in Women Code and upholds the principles set out by The Diversity Project.
In terms of I&D more widely, the company has an I&D Committee that celebrates a broad range of initiatives that celebrates and reflects the broad range of people that make up Foresight. This year saw Foresight’s Pride Network established and they have now included I&D questions as part of the engagement survey, so they have data metrics on how I&D is perceived internally.
How optimistic are you that the gender gap in financial services is likely to close over the next five years?
In all, gender diversity has come a long way in the 15 years since I joined Foresight – there is still some way to go but there’s women everywhere now including investment teams, finance, working as fund managers, asset managers and in all levels of seniority, which should aid as excellent role models for women entering the industry.
Bethany also recently spoke with ESG Clarity about the importance of backing female-founded firms. Click here to read the article.