City Women in History

The tag line for International Women’s Day 2022 is ‘Break the Bias’, something we at PIMFA have been working hard to address since we became an early signature of the Women in Finance Charter in 2017.

With the advent of Covid in early 2020, we witnessed an exponential growth in the use of communications technology and this, alongside numerous social movements, has highlighted the scale and extent to which people across society are genuinely disturbed by inequities and are motivated to address them to create a more inclusive society.

Inclusion and diversity also continue to be a top priority for our industry, and rightly so. Aside from the obvious social reason, the numbers speak for themselves – research by McKinsey shows that improving gender parity within the workplace could realistically add £150 billion to UK GDP by 2025, and firms with greater gender and ethnic diversity on their executive teams are 21- 33% more likely to outperform on profitability than their counterparts. But this ‘new reality’ has only come about as a result of huge, sustained commitment.

With the present in mind, we embark on Women in History Month and are taking some time to look back and celebrate some of those women in the finance industry who have both inspired us and contributed to the development of the much more inclusive workplace of today and a brighter future for those joining our sector. One such person is Janet Hogarth.

The Bank of England was among the first institutions in the City to employ women. In 1894, the Bank appointed Hogarth – who had a first-class degree from Oxbridge – to set up a small women’s unit charged with note-sorting which, at that time, was normally reserved for boys in their late teens. A small number of other female appointments followed Ms Hogarth’s, albeit under strictly prescribed rules such as compulsory resignations upon marriage.

How did it feel to be the first woman employed by the Bank – indeed one of the first women employed in the City? She later wrote; “When I first went to went to the Bank of England in 1894, women in ordinary Banks were unheard of, and their introduction to the Bank of England, of all places, caused a mild sensation, not to mention a series of tiresome jokes about ‘old’ and ‘young’ ladies of Threadneedle Street. How tired one got of trying to smile at them”. She might have been the first woman in history to wince inwardly at some attitudes held in the City, but she certainly wasn’t the last!

Next in our list of inspirational figures is ‘The Witch of Wall Street’, Hetty Green. Her father, Edward Robinson, died in 1865, leaving Hetty about $6 million (equivalent to $101,439,000 in 2020), which included $919,000 in cash, a warehouse in San Francisco, with the remainder in a trust fund from which she received the income. Yet she had no control over the principal fund.

Author Ken Fisher argues in his book ‘100 Minds That Made the Market’ that despite her eccentricities, Green was in many ways a better investor than most of her early Wall Street contemporaries. Green clearly understood the power of compound interest, and her focus on regular modest gains of 6% a year and frugal living made her fortune more durable than the likes of Jesse Livermore, for example, who repeatedly earned larger sums on more extravagant deals but then went bankrupt through excessive spending and high-risk investments.

Moving closer to modern times, in 1983 Dame Mary Donaldson, later Baroness Donaldson of Lymington, GBE, become the first female Lord Mayor. The daughter of an ironmonger and a school teacher, Donaldson trained as a nurse during the war and qualified in 1946. From 1967 to 1969, she chaired the Women’s National Cancer Control Campaign, and then served as the vice president of the British Cancer Council. In 1966, she was elected a member of the City of London Court of Common Council, then became the first female alderman in 1975, the first female Sheriff of the City of London in 1981 and, in 1983, the first female Lord Mayor.

She remained the only female Lord Mayor of the City of London until the election of Fiona Woolf in 2013. A stellar career, on which she once commented; “Of course, there are things which men can do better than women … But equally, women have attributes which men can never possess. Personally, I find it difficult not to become over-involved in issues concerning people”

All these women inspired change and our industry is now richer, more agile and successful for it, but there is much still to be done. A multi-faceted society must be reflected by those who serve it and more recent inspiration arrived to illustrate this in 2017 when Funlola (Lola) Ogunkoya founded Black Women in Finance, an industry group dedicated to furthering the careers of black women already in, or entering, our profession.

Ogunkoya’s aims are to widen access and see more black women secure full-time positions in Finance, following internships and/or work experience programs, that this talent is retained once they enter the industry and to provide support, encouragement and motivation as they build their careers.

PIMFA regards the Diversity & Inclusion issue as one of our top priorities and have been working hard in a number of different ways, the first of which was our inaugural Diversity & Inclusion Awards, held in October last year. This attracted over 100 high-quality submissions, producing 7 outright category winners with 5 highly commended entries. The second of these events opens on 4th April and will be bigger and better than the inaugural event as we seek to celebrate and showcase the many instances of good practice and innovation which remain hidden or unrecognised within our industry.

We have also collaborated with expert Attitude Coach Caroline Holt to develop the PIMFA Authentic Leadership Course: How to Thrive as a Female Leader in Wealth and Finance, a six-month Group Coaching Programme. This has been designed explicitly for women executives in wealth management, financial advice and private banking who want to progress their careers and build a life of purpose. The programme is CPD endorsed by CISI and supported by the Institute of Leadership & Management.

Diversity & Inclusion is also a significant part of the ESG process currently galvanising the investment sector globally, and we have led the way on this issue by founding our PIMFA ESG Academies for both Financial Advisers and Wealth Managers. We had a near-avalanche of support for these from our membership and beyond and will be running new versions later this year.

Finally, our PIMFA Diversity and Inclusion Committee oversees all of these and acts as a fulcrum for debate, best practice and finding new ways for our industry to improve our performance. As the year develops, we will be releasing new reports highlighting the work that we are doing, with new ideas and inspiration which we look forward to sharing with you.