On International Women’s Day 2017, Susie Logan talks to Standard Life’s Lynne Connolly, Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion.
“My role was created to recognise just how complex diversity and inclusion is in a large organisation like Standard Life. We’ve made progress over the last few years, particularly in youth employability and in the gender balance of our talent pipeline – but we also know how important an issue this is and that we have more to do.
Creating a diverse and inclusive culture
We’re not a large team – simply because what we’re doing involves the whole organisation. Diversity and inclusion are – or should be – front of mind for everyone, whether that’s while we are creating propositions for our customers, attracting and retaining talent, or working in the communities we support. Creating a diverse and inclusive culture comes into everything we do. And because of that, everyone has a role to play.
Diversity isn’t, of course, just about gender. On a simple level, it’s about having a lot of different types of people within your organisation, whether that’s, for example, different types of thinking, backgrounds and experiences, employing a good balance of men and women, or a variety of ages, ethnicities and sexual orientations. But inclusion is about being in a place where you feel valued for who you are and all of the talents you bring. That’s an important distinction – and one that underpins Standard Life’s belief that everyone, regardless of background, deserves the opportunity to fulfill their potential in an inclusive workplace.
Increasing female representation in executive roles
HM Treasury launched the Women in Finance Charter last year, and all financial services organisations based in the UK (or who have significant operations in the UK) have been asked to set targets and publically report progress, with this progress being linked to executive remuneration.
Why? Because the financial services sector is lagging behind when it comes to female representation in executive roles and this has an obvious impact on economic productivity. Standard Life were proud to be one of the first 72 signatories to the Charter and through this we have made public commitments on gender balance as we know that more diverse executive teams lead to better decision-making and increased performance. We’re committed to making progress inside Standard Life and extending our influence across our industry.
A sustainable approach
So how are Standard Life faring compared to other organisations in this sector? We’re going in the right direction. Our approach is a sustainable one. Of course we look at how many women we’re recruiting at a senior level, along with other types of diversity we bring into the organisation.
But we’re also putting our efforts into creating a sustainable talent pipeline that’s gender-balanced. And it’s working: over the last two years we’ve been able to increase the amount of women in our pipeline by 10% to 43%. That’s women on track to step into executive level roles. It’s a long-term commitment.
We also have a number of ways of nurturing a pipeline of talent outside the organisation – for example, we have a comprehensive youth employment approach, with partnerships in place at levels from primary to university. Through this we are focused on supporting under 25’s from all social backgrounds and all types of diversity, including gender, into Standard Life. So what we’re doing is both inside Standard Life and outside the organisation.
Diversity is about having a range of thinking around the table, to reflect our clients, customers and what goes on in the world outside the boardroom – and we need a diversity of talent to bring this.
Turning intention into action
The important thing about developing women at Standard Life, and indeed developing our diversity and inclusion approach in general, is that we recognise it’s the right thing to do. We have strong values and also understand the commercial reasons – which is a great place to be.
But how do we make it easy for all of our people to continue to develop Standard Life as a place ‘where you can be you’? In the first half of this year, we’re focusing on putting in place our strategic direction – so everyone is on board with what diversity and inclusion means for Standard Life, and what our priority areas of focus are. Once that’s established, we will continue to flow this through everything we do, from attracting talented people to work for us, to responding to the increasingly diverse needs of our clients and customers, to ensuring this is a place where people choose to stay. And understanding how we can all play a part is critical in achieving the progress we want to make.
Looking to the future
Making progress is not about a series of quick fixes. In fact, I see it as a sustained journey from focusing on diversity to being an inclusive organisation in all aspects.”
A big thank you to Lynne and to all the other people who’ve taken part in our series of articles. It doesn’t end here – we’ll continue to feature great examples of diversity and inclusivity in the workplace.
Did you know Standard Life once had a Women’s Department, and its head – a Miss Edith Beesley – became the first woman to take a business flight? You can read more here.