'It is not just about numbers - it’s about what staff experience'

Learnings from NatWest’s virtual event “Build a stronger team: how gender diversity drives financial and ESG gains” – a replay of this event can be accessed at the bottom of the article.

Hosted by Rosie Gill, Head of International, Coverage & Sector at NatWest, leaders with deep expertise in Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) and ESG pointed to the overwhelming research evidence for the positive link between gender diversity and companies’ financial and ESG performance. Just one estimate: according to S&P Global, increasing women’s labour force participation could add $5.87 trillion to the global market capitalisation in 10 years[1]. Therefore, the panellists agreed that “now is the time to act”.

Communication and culture are the critical success factors

Discussing the key ‘ingredients’ for successfully promoting and achieving gender diversity, Susan McPherson, Founder & CEO of McPherson Strategies, stressed that transparent, internal and external communication about a company’s diversity goals is a crucial deliverable: “How to effectively communicate the diversity strategy often happens to be an afterthought in companies. While the senior level knows the details, these don’t get distributed to staff. And this is where many are failing. Therefore: communicate, communicate, communicate; the good and the bad. Report on the progress – or the lack of it. Get everyone to buy in, to trust, and to understand what you try to achieve and how.” 

The panel members agreed that the other crucial success factor is the company culture.  “It obviously starts with gender or broader diversity focused recruitment but setting up staff for success is what really matters. Mentorships are critical to help staff to be successful, and so is a culture where people can make mistakes and learn from them rather than every little failure getting overly scrutinized,” Prisca Bae, Vice President of the Asian American Foundation, explained.

The experts, however, admitted that it is one of the hardest tasks to set up a culture where staff feel they can speak up and contribute fully with their different backgrounds. To achieve a culture where everyone can thrive, the panel suggested to take the following steps:

  • Establish a ‘culture of curiosity’ which could be brought to life with the help of ‘listening groups’ where colleagues can really learn about each other by sharing their background and perspectives
  • Train and equip team leaders with the knowledge on how to build diverse teams
  • Ensure a regular feedback loop from staff to senior management to check whether team leaders are doing what they are supposed to be doing
  • If you make mistake along the way, broaden your audience to get fresh , different ideas, and
  • Link specific gender and other diversity targets with financial incentives, for example staff compensation.   

Discussing how companies can see whether their gender diversity strategy is working, Dee McDougal said: “Hitting the target numbers is only one facet of success. What’s more important is how staff experience the organisation. How do they get treated? Do they get the training they need? Do they get access to information they need to progress? Staff need to feel genuinely supported and not just fast-tracked to help fulfil a target. We mustn’t forget in our drive for gender and other diversity that behind every target, behind every number there is a person.”

Food for thought: gender diversity and ESG

With companies now focusing on ESG, businesses should know that gender diversity touches the ‘E’, the ‘S’ and the ‘G’ in ESG. Gustavo Brianza, Head of ESG Advisory and Debt Advisory at NatWest, explained: “Apart from the positive link between gender diversity and financial performance, a great number of studies are also showing that gender diverse companies have a better risk management, are more innovative, and are more aware of and willing to tackle environmental issues.”

And, the panel offered some more food for thought:

  • Non-diverse companies have a high reputational risk, in particular facing heightened attention about gender and broader diversity through social media
  • Women have major influence in buying decisions, hence companies should make sure that women are part of product development
  • Teams need to represent their customers; companies have been turned down for failing to show sufficient staff diversity
  • Financial instruments and their pricing are increasingly linked to ESG targets such as gender diversity - delivering another incentive for companies to embed diversity

Finding out more

To find out more about how you could embed ESG metrics across your financing instruments, please contact:

Rosie Gill: rosie.gill@natwest.com

Gustavo Brianza: gustavo.brianza@natwest.com

For more information on ESG and how NatWest could support you, please click here.

NatWest and gender diversity – key facts

  • In 2015 we set ourselves formal targets for our CEO and Executive Committee to have at least 30% women in our global top three layers of each of our businesses by the end of 2020 and achieve a full gender balance by 2030. As at 31 December 2020, 14 of our 15 business areas have 30% or more women in their top three leadership levels.
  • Our top 4,000 roles globally are 43% women, and at a wider bank level, we have 51% male and 49% female.
  • On our Executive Management team, we have a female Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, Chief Transformation Officer, Chief Governance Officer and Company Secretary, and Chief Human Resources Officer.
  • Our employee-led Gender Network is bridging the gap between inspiring change and enabling it through the collective effort of its over 10,000 members.
  • We have been rated in the top organisations in Bloomberg's Global Gender Equality Index[2] for the 5th consecutive year and retained our position in The Times Top 50 Employers for Women.
  • We have over 800 Women in Business (WIB) specialists among our frontline bankers, accredited by the Chartered Banker Institute and certified by Everywoman, who are working with Be the Business on a mentoring programme for women-led and owned SMEs.
  • In 2018, the Treasury commissioned Alison Rose to lead an independent review of female entrepreneurship to shed light on the barriers faced by women starting and growing businesses. Read more about the Alison Rose Review.
  • We supported female entrepreneurs in 2020 by creating £1 billion in funding, which has been fully deployed and announced a further £1 billion of funding in 2021.

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