Deeds not words: why we’ve signed the Women in Finance Charter

9 Mar 2020

“Inclusivity” is a buzzword — one that means very little without action. That’s why we’ve chosen to make our commitment to achieving gender equality in our organisation public by signing the Women in Finance Charter. We’re part of a growing movement of forward thinking companies on a mission to create a more inclusive environment. Not just within our own company, but the sector as a whole.

Woman standing and looking away

Progress is happening, but not fast enough

The stats on gender equality in finance are bittersweet.

According to the Global Gender Balance Scorecard 2018, women accounted for 18% of executive committees in the top 20 global financial services firms, up from just 13% in 2014.

Meanwhile, the percentage of women on FTSE 100 boards increased from 29% in 2018 to 32% in 2019. For meaningful change to take place, a collective effort is clearly needed.

When Jaquie Williamson joined Funding Options 18 months ago, the gender imbalance was visible. Trying to spot the woman in the (board)room was a bit like playing a game of Where’s Wally! 

There were 22% females across the business and even less at executive level. As People Director and a woman in leadership, fixing this problem became her top priority.

Women in Finance Logo

Women in Finance Charter logo. Heart and hands shaking.

The pledges we’ve made to earn our place on the charter: 

Welcoming a wider cultural shift

To achieve our goals, she knew we needed to say goodbye to tokenistic quotas. 

For instance, “hiring more women” was only possible if the organisational infrastructure is in place to attract and retain female talent. Take flexible working, for instance. 

It’s very easy for a company to promote themselves as being “flexible”, but offering flexible working is another thing entirely. We wanted to be flexible, yet 60% of the business weren’t able to work flex hours or work from home. 

As an organisation, we needed to build more trust and awareness around what working from home actually meant, including an increased focus on output over visibility. A lot of people and companies can relate to this when they first approach flexible working.

Inclusivity is everyone’s responsibility, so her first step was to get commitment from the board. We need a shared vision; equal opportunities should be part of everyone’s thinking, regardless of position or department. 

What we’ve implemented so far

We are proud to say that today, 33% of our organisation is female. We’ve still got a way to go, but here’s how we’ve started to make progress...

  1. Hiring female Exec team members who understand the impact of lack of gender diversity in leadership and across the business.

  2. Making ourselves accountable by signing the Women in Finance Charter with agreement from the Board and an accountable Exec who isn’t in the People team.

  3. Evaluating company-wide areas for improvement, from job ads to onboarding policies.

  4. Implementing a Work from Home Policy.

  5. Introducing a Gender Neutral Enhanced Paid Parental Leave Scheme.

  6. Ensuring diversity in interview panels.

It’s our belief that diversity breeds more diversity. The office already feels much more balanced which is a huge selling point for potential employees coming in for interviews.

Next steps

Soon, we’ll be delivering training sessions on what Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging (DI&B) means at Funding Options, so that we’re all working towards the same goals. 

We’re also working to increase flexibility in contract hours for all and will be implementing a “Return to Work” transitioning plan for those returning after parental leave. 

Every manager and interviewer will receive unconscious bias training, we’ll be implementing an “Emerging Leader” training programme to give everyone an opportunity to progress, and we plan to broaden the scope of our diversity focus beyond gender in the near future. We’re excited about what the future holds and hope that the Women in Finance Charter will act as a catalyst for inclusivity in our sector. To find out more about the charter and how your company can get involved, visit

Zoe Cornish

Chief People & Operations Officer

Zoe Cornish is the Chief People & Operating Officer at Funding Options. Zoe has an extensive background in human resources and in developing and implementing people strategies within companies, covering employee engagement, performance management, organisational culture, coaching, as well as policies and practice. Prior to Funding Options, Zoe was the COO at Emerald group (acquired by Mind Tools).

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