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Saluting our sisters for Black History Month

Therese Chambers

Joint Executive Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight

This year’s theme for Black History Month 2023 (BHM) is Saluting our Sisters.

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As a minority ethnic woman, and as executive sponsor for our minority ethnic networks, I’m excited that we've come a long way since the first UK BHM in 1987. However, there is still lots to do both within the FCA and more widely.

Levelling the playing field

There are a plethora of reports and data that indicate a lack of parity in the workplace between minority ethnic and white groupings.

For example, Reboot’s ‘Race to Equality’ report found that 57% of those from an ethnic minority employed in financial services feel they are being overlooked. When asked whether their career progression to-date had met their expectations, more than a quarter (26%) of survey participants from an ethnic minority background said their career progression had not met expectations, while just 16% of white respondents felt the same way.

And that lack of parity extends beyond the workplace.

Our latest Financial Lives Survey also revealed that consumers in minority groups experience unequal outcomes - those from certain minority ethnic backgrounds are much less likely to have private pension provision, savings accounts or protection policies. This is a significant challenge we need to collectively address.

Our recent consultation on new rules (with the Prudential Regulation Authority) to support greater diversity in the financial services industry proposes minimum standards and sets a clear regulatory expectation. As part of the proposals, larger firms will be required to collect, report and disclose data against certain characteristics including ethnicity.

We're making the case that greater diversity and inclusion in the firms we regulate also supports the competitiveness of the UK’s financial services sector by unlocking diverse talent, reducing groupthink and improving understanding of, and provision for, diverse customer needs.

We're seeking to raise standards and build accountability across the financial services industry - and we're also tracking our own progress.

How we’re unlocking potential 

We've had diversity targets for many years now and were one of the early adopters of ethnicity reporting and targets.

For gender, I have been delighted to see that we’ve recently achieved parity between male and female representation in our senior leadership team (SLT) 2 years ahead of our Women in Finance Charter 2025 target date.

We've also increased our 2025 SLT ethnicity target from 13% to 20% and introduced a 25% target for minority ethnic representation across all pipeline grades. We acknowledge that lived experience and career progression is not the same across all minority ethnic groups.

We’re particularly aware of a lack of Black leaders in senior roles in financial services, and our own data shows slower career progression for Black individuals at the FCA. This is why we have also committed to increasing Black representation at SLT level, targeting 4% SLT Black representation within our target for 2025.

With 13.8% of our SLT being from a minority ethnic background as of 31 March 2023, we have more work to do to achieve our 20% target. You can find out more about how we are progressing.

We are taking action to meet these stretching targets, such as making changes to our recruitment practices to reduce bias, improving our diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) data reporting and running a Race and Ethnicity Sponsorship programme.

In addition, in 2022, we used an evidence-based approach to conduct a major review of our internal DEI work. Following this review, we launched a new internal DEI programme that supports our ambitions in this and other DEI areas.

The minority ethnic Networks for which I am the proud sponsor of in the FCA (Spectrum and Elevate) are also supporting the organisation in driving change.

In this year’s BHM we will celebrate our Black heritage by focusing on the achievements of Black Sisters and what they have done in different walks of life and careers in the UK to break down barriers. Our focus in the discussions will be on Driving Change, Connecting Voices and, the one I am most passionate about, Unlocking Potential.

A personal reflection

Like many persons of colour, I have become accustomed to navigating a workplace in which I'm a visible minority. It can feel lonely. It can feel exposed. It can feel hard to really belong. Others can be so worried about saying the wrong thing and inadvertently causing offence that they feel safer being colour blind – which is tantamount to feeling safer ignoring a huge part of who I am and what I am about.

I'm lucky to have had great support from those around me; but not everyone is so lucky.

I try always to be my authentic self and to be open about my heritage - including loudly cheering on Fiji in the Rugby World Cup (I am half Fijian). I try always to drive fairness and parity, to operate inclusively and to be prepared to have open and honest conversations, even when they are uncomfortable.

I have met and saluted many amazing women along the way, so the theme of Saluting our Sisters really resonates with me. Who will you salute?

The future

Through this work we are supporting positive change and encouraging others to do the same.

We can only make a sustainable change if we all come together. We must break down barriers for allies to come to the table and seek opportunities to make a difference.

Please join me this BHM month in celebrating the contributions of the Black community in the UK and our sisters. Together, we can all make a difference.