Today is always worth marking, first of all because we still have so far to go, but also because we know that we can achieve the equity we believe in.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is one of our seven Responsible Investment themes at Brunel, which means we have to think about it both internally in our culture and recruitment, and externally across our portfolios, engaging with our appointed asset managers and the companies they invest in.

Today’s focus is more specific, however. We have more than one lever we try to pull to bring improvements in gender equity in financial services, because we are well aware of the challenge ahead.

An EY study published this year showed that female appointments to UK financial services boards actually fell in 2023 – at just 33%, this was the lowest figure among the major European markets. In France, that figure was 64%.[1]

All the more reason, then, for us to look within. This week we published our Annual Report & Financial Statements, in which we published our gender pay ratio – our data shows we are moving the right direction but, like our peers in the industry, we are still some way from our destination.

We are not obligated to report this, but we consider it vital, especially if we want managers and the broader industry to take us seriously. Fortunately, our broader partnership shares our agenda – indeed, our clients have helped to shape it.

We argue for gender equality both because it’s just and it’s proven to produce better outcomes. That is why we do not only look at improving ourselves, but engage with our managers and the companies they invest in (including via targets), link up with industry bodies that can amplify our voice, and seek to encourage broader progress across the industry by speaking up and setting an example.

We have found that many asset managers and companies are ready to listen. I believe that is because we are transparent about ourselves, and are working to make progress. And it probably doesn’t hurt that Brunel’s Chair and CEO are both female!

Despite the challenge, we don’t want to be despondent. After all, women were only admitted to the trading floor of the London Stock Exchange in 1973! The question we need to keep asking ourselves is: are we doing enough to get the right outcome?

Progress has been very real – and it ain’t done yet.


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