International Women’s Day 2016: What’s it got to do with governance, risk and compliance?

Written by Simone Jones on Tuesday March 8, 2016

How equal are women? According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), not very. It released the startling estimate that we will have to wait until 2095 to close the gender gap. The UN has pledged to tackle this and want to achieve gender equality by 2030.

Today is International Women’s Day, which is intended to be a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The 2016 campaign focuses on the important issue of gender parity. The campaign, which is being supported by Ernst and Young, urges both men and women to pledge to take concrete steps to help achieve gender parity more quickly.



Surprisingly, the report from WEF showed that the United Kingdom had fallen eight places to 26th out of 142 countries in its index of gender parity.

The UK scores particularly low on economic participation which looks at the ratio of women in the workforce, equality in pay and the number of women in senior roles.     


“Achieving gender equality is obviously necessary for economic reasons. Only those economies who have full access to all their talent will remain competitive and will prosper. But even more important, gender equality is a matter of justice. As a humanity, we also have the obligation to ensure a balanced set of values”

Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.


Women in the Workplace

The report published by WEF and the website of the 2016 campaign provide numerous resources and statistics on why gender parity is so important and essential for long-term economic growth. But it’s not just countries that prosper by being more inclusive, companies also benefit. The report clearly states that companies that recruit and retain women, and ensure that they attain leadership positions, outperform those who do not.   

The benefits are being seen throughout the working world “Companies that advance women into leadership roles are going to have the upper hand, with more engaged workforces, stronger cultures and improved economic performance. We know that gender-balanced companies achieve better results. As business leaders we need to ask ourselves: Have we made enough progress? Are we helping enough women find their way into leadership roles in order to make our businesses better?" says EY Global Chairman & CEO Mark Weinberger.

Governance, Risk and Compliance

The world of governance, risk and compliance has a keen focus on ethics, integrity and culture; in a post-financial crisis world the need to build trust within the financial services industry is important. But what does this have to do with International Women’s Day?

To me, it’s about diversity. In the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority has a focus on judgement-based supervision. Essentially it is looking at the wider implications of a firm’s conduct, including the impact it has on consumers.

If decisions in firms are made by the same people, with the same backgrounds and similar opinions, can we really expect culture to change?

Diversity Required

The WEF report highlighted one more key point which really struck home with me: women make different decisions, these are not necessarily better or worse, but can reflect the needs of more members of society. 

On International Women’s Day, there is a clear focus on the differences, and how we can change the imbalance that is present around the world. But I don’t want to just solely focus on the differences, I want to us to also focus on utilising our own individual strengths and how we can work together to foster an effective ethical culture, at home, at work and within our communities.

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