Big businesses back campaign for more female leaders

Some of Britain's biggest businesses are looking to increase the number of women in top-level roles by nearly a third over the next five years, a UK government report has said.

Virgin Money boss Jayne-Anne Gadhia wants more women to break through the glass ceiling. Picture: Neil Hanna

Firms signed up to the Treasury’s Women in Finance Charter want to hike the average number of women in senior management positions to 35 per cent by 2020, up from the status quo of 27 per cent.

Aviva, Barclays, BlackRock, HSBC and London Stock Exchange Group are among the 71 financial firms signed up to the charter, which has outlined measures to shore up gender balance including linking diversity targets to executive pay.

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The report said more than 60 per cent of the firms are tying their gender targets to bonuses to help women shatter the glass ceiling.

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It comes as top finance bosses take part in a speed mentoring session at the London Stock Exchange today to help 40 young women starting out in their careers.

More than 40 mentors from firms including Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank and MasterCard have been drafted in to offer their advice on how to excel in a sector where men hold 77 per cent of board-level positions.

Jayne-Anne Gadhia, chief executive of Virgin Money and the government’s Women in Finance champion, said: “It is important that the next generation of women working in finance have the opportunity to break the glass ceiling and get to the top.

“Achieving a balanced workforce at all levels in financial services will undoubtedly improve culture, profitability and productivity, and I am delighted to see so many positive role models here today to mentor and encourage women just starting out with their careers.”

Britain’s banking giants have set the most ambitious gender diversity targets, according to the government report produced by think-tank New Financial. The lenders want to increase the number of senior women by more than 40 per cent over the next five years.

Mid-sized firms backing the charter are also eyeing a radical overhaul, with plans to boost the level of senior women by about 50 per cent on average.

Meanwhile, about 60 per cent of businesses expect to hit their gender diversity targets within the next three years.

The average pay gap between men and women stands at 18.1 per cent, the lowest level since records began, according to the Office for National Statistics.