"It's not about women trying to step over men, it's about equality and balance across the board and that will create a better working environment for everybody."
At a lunch hosted by Virgin Money and Brightstar Financial, in partnership with HM Treasury, signatories of the Women in Finance Charter discussed the benefits of gender parity for men as well as women, and said it was vital for male colleagues to drive change within the industry.
Attendees stressed that signing the Charter was not about positive discrimination at the expense of men, but about ensuring that everyone has access to the same opportunities and benefits, regardless of demographic.
Emily Cox, director of public affairs at Virgin Money, said that the Charter is trying to drive "inclusion and balance for everybody", adding that men need to lead this change.
She said: "I think the greatest change comes from the majority and it can't just be women. It's not about women trying to step over men, it's about equality and balance across the board and that will create a better working environment for everybody."
Clare Jupp, director of people development at Brightstar, highlighted how becoming a signatory had changed the working environment within the firm. As well as making employees more aware of barriers to growth, Clare said it had also allowed male colleagues to feel more confident about discussing stereotypically female workplace issues such as childcare or flexible working patterns.
Clare said that the Charter had created a "full team commitment to the fact that we all want equal access to opportunity, people development, progression and success for everyone in the business, regardless of gender". She concluded that "becoming a signatory hasn’t just improved things for women at Brightstar, it’s improved things for everybody".
Signatories in the room agreed that signing the Charter had focused thinking on assisting people on their personal career journeys, making sure that work-life balance has become better for everyone, and making sure that no role is gender specific.
Over 200 firms have now signed the Charter and over 650,000 employees are now covered by its plan to tackle gender inequality in financial services.
On wanting to expand this reach even further, the group discussed the benefits of opening up the Charter to allow smaller, non-banking firms to become signatories.
Attendees said that going forward, they would like to see more brokers and start-ups join the Charter to lead change within those sectors and make the pledge for gender balance across financial services.
Following the Treasury’s latest list of signatories revealed today, Barcadia Media - parent company of Financial Reporter - can now confirm its place as the first financial services media publication on the Charter.
In a statement today, Jayne-Anne Gadhia, CEO of Virgin Money and the government’s Women in Finance Champion, said: "The Women in Finance Charter now covers over 650,000 of those employed in financial services and I am delighted that the initiative is gathering real momentum.
"Estimates suggest that increased female participation in the labour market and women moving into higher-paid and skilled jobs could increase UK GDP by around 10% and the financial services sector needs to play its part."