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England has been celebrating the Lionesses, the women’s soccer team, winning the European Championships for the first time in their history. It was the first time an English soccer team has won a major tournament since 1966, when women were banned from playing the game.
In 1921 the Football Association, the body governing the sport in the UK, voted to ban women’s games from FA-affiliated football grounds. The ruling said: “Complaints having been made as to football being played by women, Council felt impelled to express the strong opinion that the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and should not be encouraged.”
The ban was finally lifted in 1971 and eventually led to the latest European Championship which broke attendance records for the tournament across both men and women. This shows that change is possible, although it may still be too slow and have further to go, both in sport and society in general, including financial services.
A recent survey in July 2022 by Simplify Consulting found that the gender gap is still alive and kicking in financial services. The report said: “It is 2022, and we should be operating in a time where there is equality in terms of opportunity, pay and treatment for both men and women in the financial services industry. But, to our disappointment, there still remains a problem with gender bias.”
The survey found that 40% of female professionals have experienced barriers in the workplace because of their gender; just over half, 52%, experienced gender pay issues; and one third, 34%, experience gender discrimination between a few times a month to a daily basis.
Sarina Wiegman, the Dutch manager of the English team, said she believes the win changed society. Sport journalist Jonathan Liew wrote in The Guardian: “And as England celebrated, the tableau that greeted us at Wembley would have been unthinkable even a few years ago. Women commentating on television. Women tapping away in the press box. Women officiating, women coaching on the touchline, women bellowing in the stands. Over the last few weeks these sights have become normalized because they are, in fact, normal.”
Gender and pay equality should become normal and, as in soccer, visible role models in financial services can help make that change. Jackie Boylan, Head of UK Adviser Solutions at Fidelity International, said in the Simplify Consulting report: “Being able to see people that are a little bit like you so that you don’t have to mold yourself into something else to be successful is really important. Genuinely caring for people, knowing how to get the best out of people, inspiring them and bringing them with you and not seeing them as a threat. Knowing that if you have the best people around you, you’re going to be really successful too”.
Many more role models will become visible at the Markets Media Group’s eighth-annual U.S. Women in Finance Awards, to be held in November 2022 in New York City. The editorial process for this year’s WIF will soon be in full swing so put in your nominations to help more women win.