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Is International Women's Day a box ticking exercise? The jury is out.

Niamh McDonnell, Sales Development Representative at Rungway, gives a run down on her experience attending the Financial Services Forum on Wednesday 8th March 2023.

10 Mar 2023 | 5 min read

Niamh McDonnell, Sales Development Representative at Rungway, gives a run down on her experience attending the Financial Services Forum on Wednesday 8th March 2023.


Rungway attended ‘Women in Finance: Levelling the playing field’ hosted by the Financial Services Forum in London. The aim of this event was to highlight issues still facing women in finance. 

There is no denying an imbalance still exists, and by hearing speaker’s anecdotes and research it’s clear the world still has a long way to go. Despite being hopeful, as a young female professional this comes as no surprise. 

Although the Chair of the event, Hardeep Tawakley, was unable to be there, her opening remarks, read by Dave Cowan, Managing Director of the FS Forum, questioned ‘Do we need IWD?’. She answered no, noting a need for a focus on equity every-single-day. A sentiment shared by the room and by me. 

The event covered four primary topics:

  1. Are Financial Services Equal? 
  2. An Inclusion Masterclass
  3. Equality is a Team Effort
  4. Who Runs the World? Girls!


Are Financial Services Equal? 

For this panel discussion, Joanne Merecido Head of Group Marketing & Business Development at LEAP and Kate Monserrate Director of Simplify Consulting, took an insight centric approach. 

Monserrate ’s research found that 50% of women had their career impeded by life events – including having children or caring for relatives. 40% of female professionals said they had experienced barriers in the workplace because of their gender. These statistics were not exactly comforting but it makes me glad IWD exists - without it might these facts go unnoticed? 

Merecido reminded us that pre-pandemic women were approximately 150 years away from equality, but post-pandemic this has shot up to 300 years. She also received an ironic laugh from the room when she said there were more funds run by ‘Dave’ than women in executive roles. To let this sink in, 0.1% of the population are named Dave while 50.5% of the population are women. 

Merecido left us with a poignant food for thought, ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’. Calling for us to ensure BAME women are getting the representation they deserve so the next generation are inspired to work in the industry. 

At the end of their session, they posed the following questions to the room (90% of which were women), I’ll let the answers speak for themselves. 


  • Have you ever been sexually assaulted at work? 52% said yes. 
  • Has your gender ever held you back at work? 64% said yes
  • Do you suffer from imposter syndrome? 94% said yes


An Inclusion Masterclass 

Two speeches by Amanda Pistocchi, from St. James’s Place Financial Advisor Academy, and Jo Preston from Teamspirit were next on the itinerary. 

Pistocchi informed us of a shortage of 50,000 financial advisors in the corporate world and that of the 30,000 that do exist, only 16% of them are women. This is despite women being projected to control 63% of the UK’s wealth in 2025, reminding us of the need to get young girls and professional women into FS roles. Female only recruitment events may be the answer due to the safety it provides (which Rungway have seen sentiment of with clients), however, this was up for debate. 

Preston discussed the lengths Teamspirit have gone to ensure their workforce, female and otherwise, feel comfortable and accepted at work. She shared a personal story of the corporate support she received during her maternity journey and how she has now remained at that company for 14 years and counting. 


Equality is a Team Effort 

In this session Lindsey Bass, Head of UK Consultant Relations at Legal & General  spoke about her ‘Squiggly Career’ (a term I discovered was coined by Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis) which really demonstrated that at any stage of your life, a career in FS is possible.  

Bass also gave tips for the room to be able to make positive changes. We must show the commercial impact of true equality and reel the unengaged in gently. It sounds like a long hard road, but if women, allies and government take action I truly believe we can change the working world for the better in my lifetime. 


Who Runs the World? Girls!

The last panel of the day was hosted by Kirsty Maxey, CEO of Teamspirit. She was joined by Claire Mason, CEO & Founder of Man Bites Dog, Anne-Marie McConnon, Global Chief Client Experience Officer at BNY Mellon and Elisa Magistrali, Consultant at White Marble Consulting. 

Throughout the panel discussion there were multiple calls to the regulator and the government to act to truly bring about collective change throughout the financial world. Mason described how she formally wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to legally change ‘Chairman’ to ‘Chair’ late last year. His response was the same as the man who had been in office four decades earlier – we have bigger things to focus on. But if not now, when?

Elisa shed positivity on the day by reminding us that there is a 658% increase on questions about inclusion and diversity in the workplace – a true indicator of the growing demand for change. Anne-Marie McConnon reiterated that the entire world’s system is made for men and that ‘Even though we have a seat at the table, the table was not made for us’. 


My Parting Thoughts 

The day was affecting, astute and left the whole room with lots to think about. I felt empowered but also deflated leaving the BNY Mellon conference room - a weird mix of emotions I’ll admit. 

Later on that day, I saw many people online write ‘Happy International Women’s Day’ or ‘We celebrate women in our lives today’ whereas in reality, the meaning of the day is not that of joy and celebration. It is a day for reflection. We must look at the education system, the regulators and the media to identify where it has gone wrong and how we can change it.  I am thankful for all the women I’ve named above and for the organisations working toward true equity in the workplace - identifying the difference in genders and adapting accordingly. 

I’ll leave you with this. Is there a glass ceiling? 

We must believe there is not, but if we encounter one, the wider consensus is…get out. 

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