The Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognize that climate action, to be truly transformative, must promote and respect gender equality and women’s rights. It is therefore incumbent on organizations that finance and support adaptation to climate change to embark on this path and set an example themselves.
The financial sector would benefit from being exemplary
Diversity, considered an essential asset in terms of brand image, is first and foremost a proven driver of economic performance for a company, whatever its activity (1). A series of studies carried out by McKinsey (2) reveals that companies in the top quarter for gender mix are 15% more likely to have financial returns above the industry average. Those that stand out for diversity are 35% more likely to exceed this average.
However, the world of finance is still struggling to promote the career development of women. If the latter represent, in France, almost half of the jobs in this sector, they are only 20% to occupy management positions. (3)!
Declarations of intent abound. According to a study by WORKDAY, 76% of leaders believe that diversity and inclusion is of significant importance to their organization. 71% of companies say they devote a dedicated budget to it and 26% foresee an increase in this budget in 2022…
Think top-down, not bottom-up
When we started recruiting as a management company, we wanted to open more doors for women. We expected to have to practice affirmative action…but we received a lot of excellent applications. In the end, this diversification happened naturally, which is not yet representative of the sector in general. So we wondered about the reasons.
What certainly made the difference was that at the head of some of our business units there were already women who took part in the recruitment processes and in the discussions on the qualities and skills sought, which were assessed with a different perspective and expectations. This had a positive ripple effect and women joined all the teams. Diversity calls for diversity, in a virtuous circle… But you have to start somewhere!
Thinking about parity as a fusion of complementary forces
Diversity should not be confused with a policy of assimilation as practiced a few years ago, encouraging newcomers to behave like those who had always been there. It is essential to create a corporate culture where everyone, whatever their gender, feels listened to and valued for their own qualities and skills, and not for their ability to comply with the existing culture and rules… an attitude long advocated in the financial sector.
In summary: stop asking women to behave like men! We have seen too many talented women leave the world of finance because of the sector’s inability to think outside the box by imposing codes and ways of working that lack agility.
Retaining talent is crucial in our business, which is mainly based on relationships of trust with our partners and investors, which are built over time, on long-term projects.
Let’s finally move on from declarations of intent to concrete actions
If the will is there and the change has begun, it is still necessary to promote the conditions allowing the movement to spread throughout the entire financial sector… France Invest, of which we are members, has launched a roadmap with Ambitious objectives: 40% of women in the investment teams of management companies, and at least 30% of women on the executive committees of companies with more than 500 employees supported by management companies.
The mistake would be to consider these objectives as a series of constraints instead of seeing them as a lever for strategic growth. Yes, the doors are opening, but the glass ceiling is still there. It is time to defend and promote the accession of women to positions commensurate with their talent!
(1) McKinsey, “Diversity Wins,” May 19, 2020.
(2) McKinsey, Diversity Matters 2015-2021 studies.
(3) IMF figures.