IWD 2024: A tick box exercise or a force for good?

Looking around my office at specialist bridging firm, Somo, I’m happy to say that we have a 50/ 50 split between men and women, and half of our leadership team are female too, including our sales director, head of compliance and myself, as head of marketing.

For a bridging firm, I think that’s unusual — at bridging industry events I’m normally greeted by a sea of male faces. But I do think things are changing. 

When I started at Somo, coming from an advertising and brand background, I looked at the other brands in our sector and found it lacking. Brands felt corporate and dry.

These days our competitive landscape is vibrant and engaging with lot of brands out there that I really admire.

I read our sector press and there’s a strong female marketing cohort across bridging these days creating great communications and helping to positively change the perceptions of the industry. 

Even a quick look at the recent Power List in the latest Bridging & Commercial magazine shows that women have a good presence within bridging.

Out of the 40 people featured, 16 are women, compared to 24 men. A 40/60 split isn’t ideal, but it’s getting better. 

Young women joining the bridging sector now have great opportunities ahead of them. The sector is in a major growth phase and there’s strong demand for talent.

To help nurture the next generation of talent Somo is launching a new Academy through which we’re offering on-the-job training for ambitious minds straight from college. 

Whilst our recruitment process doesn’t “see” gender, Somo is looking to continue the even split between men and women and is encouraging applications from a diverse range of individuals.

Initiatives like Somo’s Academy are not only gender inclusive but are a gateway for anyone and everyone whether they have a degree, college education or no further education at all. 

My advice to women in finance would be to have confidence in their own abilities and worth, speak up and be heard.

In my ad agency days, working with a huge banking client, I found out I was earning less than a male counterpart doing the same role.

I tackled this problem head on by speaking to HR and it was addressed with an apology and a pay increase fairly effortlessly.

Of course, it’s frustrating that I found myself in this position at all but it’s reassuring how easy it was solve the problem by having the confidence to speak up. 

Initiatives like International Women’s Day succeed at shining a light on gender equality in the workplace.

And I do think it creates some change by encouraging firms to be more mindful and update policies, but I do question whether this is, in part, to avoid being named and shamed and it’s certainly the bare minimum.

I worry that IWD is on a path to becoming a money-making equivalent of Valentine’s Day for women’s rights, a tick box exercise for companies that claim they are not tick box lenders.

Social media will be brimming with photos of empowered women posted by firms eager to show how progressive they are, but how many will really understand the deeper issues that underpin the day?

Actions speak louder than cupcakes, percy pigs and pink bunting in the boardroom on Friday. 

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