April 30, 2020

Does Covid-19 present a leapfrog moment for gender Diversity?

This panel originally aired on April 23, during UK FinTech Week 2020

Tim Dinsdale, CTO Europe, OpenFin

I was delighted to take part in the #UKFTW20 debate last week – Does Covid-19 present a leapfrog moment for gender Diversity?
We had a fantastic panel, with real change-makers across the industry when it comes to improving gender balance in the workforce. Our panel was introduced by Charlotte Crosswell, Innovate Finance; participants included Vanessa Vallely OBE CCMI, WeAreTheCity; Dominie Moss, The Return Hub; Anabel Johnson, Lloyds Banking Group and moderated by Julia Streets, Streets Consulting.

We covered a lot of ground in our discussion, but overall a few themes stood out for me.
Covid19 represents an opportunity that we cannot miss when it comes to improving diversity across our workforces when we emerge from this crisis. We are witnessing a levelling of the playing field: remote working is the new normal and no longer skewed towards women working flexible hours or senior management having earned the right to work from home.

The culture of presenteeism, which traditionally affected women more than men, is changing. We are realising that we do not need to be physically present in an office environment or attend meetings in order to carry out our work, close deals or achieve high levels of productivity.
Zoom is a great leveller in terms of removing barriers, gender or other, to participation in discussions. It is no longer the case that the loudest voice in the room gets the most airtime. We have all learned to listen more and better, which is definitely something we need to take forward when we emerge from this situation.

Motivation and mental health is gender agnostic and a key area of focus for all managers. We need to make sure our teams remain motivated and are also able to cope with the new normal, balance home-schooling, home-working and other CV19 related implications on our daily lives.
We do not have all the answers and are learning new skills – from digitising our workflows to managing our teams through times of change. We are engaging more than ever with our teams to find the right answers together.

Finally, we are learning a lot about each other’s humanity. The level of interaction we have with our colleagues and the insights into their private lives, kitchen and home offices, builds a new level of interaction where we all become mindful of the challenges we face as we embrace more flexible working models.

One thing is clear – we cannot waste what we are learning from this time. We need to maintain the open dialogue on gender balance in the workforce, resilience of our teams and ensure that even after the crisis, everyone maintains an equal share of voice in the debate. We can emerge from this with a stronger gender diversity across our firms and an understanding that embracing more flexibility is not detrimental to our productivity. I believe that the firms who realise the shifting realities, are able to care for, motivate and inspire a new mix of existing and upcoming talent, will emerge from this very strongly with a more diverse workforce across the spectrum – gender, age, ethnicity, ability / disability or other. So let’s not waste the opportunity.

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