Lloyds hits diversity target

BANKING giant Lloyds today insisted it was making progress in its quest to boost female representation in its upper ranks as it hit one of its key goals.

Fiona Cannon heads Lloyds' diversity section. Picture: Contributed

The group said it had identified many of the “roadblocks” to women’s career paths following the first year of a programme to ensure at least 40 per cent of its top 8,000 jobs are held by women by 2020. That figure now stands at 29 per cent, up from 27 per cent 12 months ago.

Fiona Cannon, director of diversity and inclusion at Lloyds, said the figures put the group on track to meet its ultimate target. However, she also conceded that more remains to be done.

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“The group will need to overcome a number of challenges before it becomes a fully-inclusive workplace for women, but by treating this as a business issue, we are confident we can appropriately meet our diversity goals,” Cannon said. The announcement follows sustained pressure from Business Secretary Vince Cable and others to raise the number of women in the boardrooms of Britain’s biggest companies.

Historically under-represented in senior roles across many sectors, women have been particularly held back in UK banking. A study in 2009 by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that while women accounted for nearly one-third of managers and senior executives generally, that figure fell to 11 per cent in the banking sector.

Prior to launching its diversity initiative, Lloyds’ overall workforce was 60 per cent female versus 27 per cent of women in senior roles.

The initiative is part of the lender’s Helping Britain Prosper Plan, a package of measures announced last year and designed to restore its reputation following the financial crisis.

Other objectives include things such as boosting lending to small businesses, increased support for manufacturers and extra funding for credit unions.

Launching the initiative last year, Cannon said Lloyds wanted to “lead the way in the banking industry” while becoming the first FTSE company to “fully reflect the diversity of our customers in the management of our group”. The bank is now implementing a number of initiatives to ease that process.

“We always knew there were roadblocks specific to women’s career paths, but our Helping Britain Prosper Plan has now started to provide us with the data we need to identify where many of these roadblocks are, and importantly, how we can try to break them down,” she said.

Lloyds now operates a “comply or explain” policy on shortlists for executive-level posts, which raised the number of female executive candidates to 54 per cent in 2014, up from 43 per cent previously.

The group has also developed senior-level talent programme as well as a leadership programme for women holding middle-management positions. The bank’s network for women, Breakthrough, has 11,500 members.

“We are committed to developing a strong pipeline of female talent at managerial level who can be developed over an appropriate period of time into senior management and executive roles,” Cannon added. “Our next step is to focus on improving our approach to attracting and developing female senior leaders, developing our agile working proposition, and improving the capability of all of our line managers.”