Today, 8th March, marks International Women’s Day. There is no better time to consider the issue of gender diversity in the financial services sector and, in particular, the bridging loans market.
Much will be written on this subject today but at MFS we want to move beyond the theoretical. Instead, we are going to look at practical ways of ensuring more women can work and excel within the bridging loans industry.
But first, what are our credentials?
MFS champions gender diversity
Gender diversity is not a PR exercise for us. It is not something we only shout about once year. In fact, just last September we published an in-depth report dedicated to exploring diversity in financial services.
We are not perfect, but we are not complacent and we do feel well qualified to discuss the matter.
After all, it is estimated that at present 32% of senior management positions across the financial services sector are held by women. At MFS, the figure is almost twice as high. A healthy majority (62%) of our management team are women.
Source: Women in Finance Charter
On top of that, we sponsor Bridging Loan Directory’s Women in Finance feature, as well as Financial Reporter’s Women’s Recognition Awards. Plus, later this week we are running a female-inspired event with the Asian Jewish Business Network.
Why embrace diversity?
There are many reasons why this issue requires attention. Fundamentally, it is every employer’s role to ensure equal opportunities for new and existing staff, regardless of their gender or background.
Studies show that there are many reasons for embracing diversity. From staff retention and employee satisfaction through to productivity and profitability. We focus on what will make us a better business. How can we be the best bridging loan provider we can be? How can we make sure MFS is a great place to work?
Having a balanced representation between men and women across our team, and particularly in senior positions, is key in tackling both of those questions. For one, diversity helps us solve problems – different people who think and act differently help us look at challenges from many angles. That way, we can find the best possible solution.
This is central to what we do. As a bridging lender that often takes on complex cases, it’s important that we think out of the box. If our team was made up largely of people who fall under the same demographic, this would become far more difficult.
A recent case study we completed with Knight Frank Finance highlights this point perfectly. A client needed a loan to renovate a spa and hotel:
- The property was Grade II listed
- Deadlines were tight
- Two of the borrowers were located overseas.
Where other lenders would have walked away, our business development manager, Zahira Fayyaz, and underwriter, Jemma Vaja, founds ways to overcome those hurdles.
How to make progress
The all-important question is how can we make progress? Here are some of our key pieces of advice:
Female role models
It’s vital that women in any organisation can see female representation within senior management positions, ideally right to the top. Employers that want to create a more diverse team must ensure this translates into their policies when hiring and promoting at all levels.
A positive culture
Language in the workplace is extremely important. Clumsy, provocative or harmful language can quickly alienate people from different backgrounds, so employers must not tolerate any such incidents. To create more balanced teams of men and women, financial services firms must carefully consider what their culture is like and whether it is supportive, friendly and welcoming to all.
Having some flexibility in how, where and when people work can also prove valuable. For example, parents may need to work slightly different hours to account for their child(ren) being in nursery or school. Allowing for this will ensure mothers – and fathers – do not have to choose between the professional and personal lives.
Lots can be done in the hiring process alone:
- Anonymous CVs
- Ensuring there is a diverse interviewing panel
- Multiple stages of interviews with different types of task
These are all ways are preventing recruitment efforts from becoming skewed towards – or away from – a particular demographic.
At MFS, we are proud of our diverse team. Women hold positions across all departments, and there is no question that it makes us a better business and a superior bridging loan provider.
International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to celebrate that fact. But, as ever, it is a timely reminder that much more needs to be done to champion gender diversity across the financial services industry.