TWO recent appointments have highlighted the lack of gender diversity in the UK’s peer-to-peer sector, where women still occupy a minority of roles.
In May, Funding Circle named former O2 and Tesco Mobile executive Cath Keers as its first female non-executive director (NED), and in mid-April, Zopa appointed former Peer-to-Peer Finance Association chair Christine Farnish as its first female NED.
The Women on Boards review is targeting that a third of board positions at the UK’s largest public companies be made up of women by 2020. Funding Circle and Zopa are not yet listed but there has been speculation that Funding Circle will float on the stock market in the autumn.
“There seems to be a marked lack of diversity in the sector,” said Nicola Horlick, chief executive of Money & Co. “There are women lower down the ranks, but not at C-suite level.”
Landbay, RateSetter, Funding Circle and Rebuildingsociety have all signed up to the government-backed Women in Finance Charter, which aims to promote a balanced and fair workplace within the financial services industry. However, the charter may not go far enough.
John Goodall, chief executive at Landbay, said that while it is “a critical initiative”, any equality efforts must be proportionate to the size of each business.
“Much like our other P2P counterparts, we are still in the relatively early stages of growth, so the targets set needed to be proportionate to our size and stage of development,” he said.
“However, with several new hires on the horizon to support our continued expansion, we are focussed on these measures to ensure a gender balance at senior levels going forward.”
Horlick added that women are at an early disadvantage in the fintech sector. “In terms of getting more women involved in the sector, I don’t see why this shouldn’t be possible,” she said.
“However, all of the businesses that currently exist are start-ups and it is notoriously difficult for women to get funding to start their own businesses. Thus, it is more likely that they will be recruited into the existing businesses and then will have to rise through the ranks.”
According to recent research from headhunter Egon Zehnder, the rate at which women are being promoted to the boards of the UK’s largest companies has slowed for the first time. Women accounted for just 29 per cent of hires to UK boards in 2016, down from 32.1 per cent in 2014 and 31.6 per cent in 2012.
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