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Blog: International Women’s Day 2024: ‘Inspire Inclusion’

When women aren’t present, we must ask: “If not, why not?”

When women are discriminated against, we must call out poor practice.

When the treatment of women is not equitable, we must take action.

And we must do this each time, every time.”

This article prepared by the Leasing Foundation’s Race and Ethnicity DEI group, considers how and why, we should #InspireInclusion, but with a focus on calling out poor practice and taking action together, to ensure inclusion for women of colour.

Women make up 51% of the UK’s population and with an employment rate of 72% (men, 78%). We also know from government statistics that 80.5% of the female population identifies as white, meaning that women of colour therefore make up 19.5% of the UK’s population. From the last HMT Women in Finance Charter Annual Review, we know that average female representation in senior management roles, in the finance industry reached 35% in 2022. By applying some crude maths, at the very best, we could expect that approximately 6.8% of these women in senior roles, should therefore be women of colour.

We already know that when an organisation increases gender, or racial and cultural diversity in its workforce there is an increase in both profitability and long term value creation. The landmark “Broken Ladders” report published in 2022 by The Fawcett Society and the Runnymede Trust, found that women of colour were more likely to agree that it is important to them that they are promoted over time (64%, versus 49% for white women). There is therefore no shortage of ambition amongst women of colour, and no shortage of benefits that such diversity can bring to an organisation.

However, the Broken Ladders report found that 75% of women of colour have experienced racism at work and 27% have suffered racial slurs. Additionally, 28% of women of colour (compared with 19% of white women) reported that a manager had blocked their progression at work, and 42% reported being passed over for promotion despite good feedback (compared to 27% for white women). And, being refused promotion led to loss of motivation for 43% of women of colour.

Herein, the problem lies. The Broken Ladders report found that 52% of women of colour experience discrimination during recruitment processes. These individuals are less likely to take the role at that organisation, or if they do, will be less likely to want to stay. Add in the racism at work that these women will experience, the blockers to progression and promotion, and we end up where we are today. There needs to be change.

Ambition is higher amongst women of colour, but so too is the glass ceiling. We need to look internally at our organisations, call out poor practice and take action, to bring that glass ceiling down.

Organisations can do this by reviewing and implementing recruitment processes that eradicate conscious and unconscious bias, policies that are better at supporting women from different racial and cultural backgrounds, in addition to attracting entry level talent through participating on programmes such as 10,000 Black Interns, and nurturing that talent through pipeline development programmes. Many women, not only women of colour, suffer a lack of support throughout their careers, and we can change this by implementing returner programmes including mentoring schemes, flexible working and family oriented policies.

The industry needs to do more to attract, retain and accelerate women throughout their careers and the Leasing Foundation is committed to help businesses embed inclusion and diversity into hiring, performance and succession management, leadership development and learning.

The Race and Ethnicity work stream (part of the DEI committee) aim to provide Leasing Foundation members with simple, actionable ideas and initiatives that can be implemented within the workplace. For instance, our ‘lunch and learn’ webinar last year focused on how all employers can facilitate work experience opportunities, or collaborate with DEI organisations (such as Talent TapUpreach or CodeBar) to create fair and accessible learning opportunities for those in early careers; this is vital to attract and retain diverse talent.

We will be releasing a series of blog posts on throughout the year on topics such as creating fair opportunities, unconscious bias and diverse talent attraction.

By Emma Udi, Legal Counsel – Regulation and Motor Finance, Aldermore Group