#InspireInclusion: Empowering women in leadership

5 March 2024 / Insight posted in Article

Inclusion and fostering gender diversity have always been important for long-term business success. It’s not just about fairness; it’s about maximising potential, driving innovation and creating stronger, more representative, sustainable organisations.

Last year, the World Economic Forum reported women still face significant underrepresentation in leadership roles globally. It identified financial services as an industry with some of the toughest conditions for aspiring female leaders.

Moore Kingston Smith strives to cultivate a culture where everyone is respected and valued as their authentic selves; where access to opportunity is available to all; and where diverse thought, skills, and experiences are encouraged and celebrated, for the benefit of its​​​​​​ clients and people.

Moore Global’s Women in Leadership initiative

In early 2023, the Moore Global network launched the Women in Leadership initiative across member firms, as part of its Social Ambition programme; a networkwide strategy to collectively deliver positive social impact.

Focused on breaking barriers, firms worked to understand and unpick the challenges women face in progressing to leadership roles. Led by Moore Kingston Smith’s Social Ambition ambassador, Adele Hebditch, the initiative gained insights on this theme through focus groups, interviews and surveys over 12 months.

The exercise highlighted many positives. 25% of the firm’s partners are women. 45% of the firm are women. 67% of its 2023 promotions were awarded to women. This indicates it employs a near-equal number of women to men, and promotes them, showing those in junior roles that progression is achievable.

“Exploring this initiative has shone a light on what we’re getting right while highlighting areas for improvement. I’m proud to be part of a firm that listens and takes action, evolving its policies to support people further. Our flexible working and leading family leave support women aspiring to leadership positions, without compromising their work life balance.”
Adele Hebditch, Moore Kingston Smith’s Social Ambition ambassador

Understanding the challenges

The focus groups conducted gleaned the perspectives of the firm’s people. While barriers discussed were not unique to Moore Kingston Smith, the firm recognises it’s not immune to the considerable societal factors that often hamper career progression for women.

The themes discussed included maternity leave meaning extended time away, missed networking opportunities, and building up portfolios on return feeling like a setback. Having a family or children to prioritise could mean less time spent at work and with clients which may also impede progression to leadership.

Wellbeing implications were also considered, acknowledging that some women carry a high emotional load within relationships or family dynamics. When leadership responsibilities are added this mix, it can exacerbate mental health challenges, serving as a barrier to progression.

Nurturing a supportive environment

Understanding that not everyone starts from the same point, Moore Kingston Smith seeks to meet its people where they are personally, acknowledging there’s no one-size-fits-all in its approach.

Recognising that flexibility is key to an inclusive workplace, the firm is open to changes in hours, location and patterns; for example, around the school run and caregiving. Offering flexible working to all and encouraging hybrid working, the firm is proud to have total cultural acceptance for people to be honest about their commitments, and to schedule meetings and their work around this without judgement.

The firm has designed its suite of people benefits, tools and policies to help women at various stages of their careers and lives, and to help ensure a smooth return to work following a career break or absence. These include paid time off for fertility treatment, support for pregnancy loss and bereavement, sickness, parenting and caring responsibilities, menopause, and other life events.

Supporting those choosing to have children, people have the option of six months’ full pay followed by four months’ half pay for maternity/main parent or adopter leave, with paternity/second parent or adopter leave comprising six weeks’ full pay. This is a day one benefit. There’s also a toolkit for leaders to enable them to better support those going on and returning from leave.

The firm has created a clear progression pathway by establishing a culture and policies recognising differences in individual circumstances that can flex to provide the appropriate support and opportunities. The reward strategy was recently transformed, applying the same holistic, transparent and scientific approach to all pay decisions, communicating how they are made, eliminating bias, and ensuring equity, while rewarding personal growth and performance. Transparent procedures reduce the chance for biases to come into play, strengthened by moderation exercises across promotion decisions.

Empowering women in leadership

Having visible role models is key to empowering women in leadership. The firm is home to many women in senior leadership roles. Its Managing Partner, Chief Financial Officer, Head of Education, HR Director, L&D Director and Director of Outsourcing, to name a few, are all women in senior positions who’ve also stepped out of and back into their roles to have families. This representation ensures those in junior positions know they too can reach seniority. It also serves to welcome broader viewpoints, helps to address gender bias and break the stereotype that leadership is gender specific.

Peer-to-peer support between those who have progressed and those on their journey is a way to help women within organisations navigate their career paths. The firm’s formal mentoring scheme provides a tailored learning intervention for individuals, helping them to succeed in their roles and beyond with a focus on personal and professional skills development.

As a people-first employer the firm continues looking at ways to further improve, ensuring everyone has access to the support they need to achieve their ambitions. The Women in Leadership initiative continues, facilitating discussion around the obstacles facing women’s progression within our profession, and helping to identify strategies, policies, and actions at firm level and beyond to break barriers.

Join us for our International Women’s Day seminar

Join us online for a panel discussion centred on supporting women into leadership roles on 6 March 2024 to hear from a panel of inspirational leading women, all involved in championing women to succeed in their organisations and beyond.

Click here to book your place.

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