EMILY COX DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS VIRGIN MONEY. CO-AUTHOR OF HM TREASURY/VIRGIN MONEY ‘EMPOWERING PRODUCTIVITY – HARNESSING THE POWER OF WOMEN IN FINANCIAL SERVICES’
Emily Cox has been heavily involved in the Gadhia review and has also set up an internal network at Virgin Money called the Gender Agenda Network to raise awareness of gender equality within the organisation and create better networking opportunities.
“In 2015 Jayne-Anne Gadhia the CEO of Virgin Money was asked by the Economic Secretary to the Treasury to conduct a review into the representation of senior women in nancial services. Virgin Money was an interesting choice as we’re not part of the establishment.”
“Importantly, we gave it a national voice because two thirds of the jobs in financial services are outside of the M25. We also made the process democratic by inviting more than 3,200 men and women in mid-tier management to contribute – including Virgin Group colleagues who brought insight from a totally different perspective. Finally, we consulted on our direction of travel by sharing our findings as we went along, rather than just waiting until the end. We are now seen as thought-leaders on gender diversity”
“IN FINANCIAL SERVICES, WHAT GETS MEASURED, GETS DONE”
Emily agrees that linking bonuses into gender equality targets will be the biggest challenge for financial services firms to engage with but, as she says, that’s a language this industry understands.
“In financial services, what gets measured, gets done,” she says. “ The feeling was that gender equality should be treated like any other business problem – you set a strategy, you establish targets, you make someone accountable, and then you incentivise the right behaviour.”
WHY ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT THIS?
We get everywhere in life on our own merit especially in the education system. But I remember the first time it struck me that this was not necessarily the case for women at work when a recruitment agent said to me:
‘YOU SOUND PERFECT FOR THE ROLE BUT ARE YOU MARRIED AND HOW OLD ARE YOU?’
She then went on to mentioned that if I was interested in the role then I must make a commitment to the company that I would not have a baby for the next five years in order for her to put me forward.
Overall though, I find that there is very little overt discrimination but attitudes do exist and things can be shut down pretty quickly internally if people don’t find it useful to them.
What focuses the mind is becoming the mother of a daughter and having junior women looking at me – this pushes me more into doing the right thing, speaking up and being even more resilient.
We have an obligation to employees to make sure everyone can make a contribution no matter how they do it and this means taking a step back sometimes and checking for unconscious bias.
People in their 20s don’t want targets and quotas, they want to prove themselves and get there on their own merit. But in their early 30s this changes and this is where you see equality drop o and so the middle management tier becomes 25% women and 75% men. Having targets directed in this area would be a good thing.
Then the 50-60 year olds believe that quotas are the only way to make a difference, so the problem definitely lies in the middle.
I am pleased with the response so far to the charter and hope that the media expose those who haven’t signed up and applaud those who have. e question must be asked that if you haven’t signed up, why not?
ON A PERSONAL NOTE
For me success in life is about making a real contribution to something very worthwhile. Take chances when you can, not being afraid of taking a risk no and again. ere is no such thing as a bad experience because there is always something we can learn.
THIS INTERVIEW IS ONE OF A SERIES INCLUDED WITHIN SHINE UK MAGAZINE
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