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2018: The Year for Women in Risk and Compliance

11 April 2018

by Jessica Williams

In Q1, we published a retrospective about the gender split of senior placements in our core markets. While the data showed disproportion in almost all areas, we noted that one sector had a strong balance of male and female candidates. Risk and Compliance was evening up the score, with women accounting for 49% of our placements in 2017, compared to 51% men. But there is still work to be done. Employers are redoubling their diversity efforts – an opportunity that could be capitalised on by the sector’s female talent, reports Jack Johnson, Manager of the Risk and Compliance team.

“Women are better represented in junior to mid-management roles, but this does not yet translate into a comparable figure when we look at the leadership function,” comments Jack. Of our leadership placements in this sector last year, only 28% were filled with female candidates.

“Where we see many male candidates pursuing roles despite not having the required experience, female candidates are more reticent to take the plunge. Ironically, many of these female candidates offer a more compelling proposition than some of the shortlisted males, especially in terms of skills profile and culture fit.”  

For Jack, the reasoning behind this pattern lies in confidence. “Female candidates hear that the client requires ‘X years’ experience’ and become reluctant to take their interest further. They know they have the aptitude, expertise and qualities, but not the precise experience level needed.” In the end, candidates miss out on great opportunities – and clients miss out on potential leaders – through a simple case of loss aversion.

This is an issue Jack and his team are committed to addressing head-on. “What candidates feel they have to offer and what the market is demanding may be two very different things – and that’s where we come in. We regularly meet with candidates to identify their career motivations and advise them on ways to achieve their personal career goals. Often, role profiles can appear generic and inflexible, so it is incredibly important that we provide an accurate picture of the positions open to our candidates,” Jack explains. By demonstrating how the needs of our clients align with the goals of our candidates, we encourage rising female leaders to apply for roles they may personally deem beyond their skill set." This approach has already produced some fantastic success stories when filling leadership roles with talented female candidates. “Ultimately, we are here to have an honest discussion about your career path, in which we can help you realise your potential, capitalise on your strengths and take advantage of a market where glass ceilings are becoming a thing of the past,” adds Jack.

So what else is Oliver James doing to address this important issue in the progression of women?

Our approach considers the challenges of hiring in a context where the diversity conversation is quickly evolving, with many of our clients aiming to achieve a 50:50 gender split by 2020. We are already well underway in supporting this objective, working closely with foremost executive coach Katherine Bryant of The Progress Partnership to help offset imbalances in representation across our markets. Together, we are delivering a wide variety of workshops that explore how clients can adapt their recruitment agendas to foster a fully realised programme of diverse and inclusive hiring practices.

We are also supporting many clients on a one-to-one basis. For example, our award-winning Learning & Development consultants delivered a two-day programme to Prudential’s in-house team on unconscious biases within their hiring model. This is a solution of huge value in the eyes of UK Director, Rick Davis, who comments:-

“This service lies outside the traditional scope of a recruitment agency, yet allows Oliver James to go beyond pre-determined requirements and into the realms of consulting on prominent issues such as gender parity, D&I and equality in the workplace.”

While it is clear there is a way to go in terms of gender imbalance in our core markets, there is real momentum behind the movement for change in Risk and Compliance. It is exciting to think that many new female leaders will emerge in this space over the coming years, and that can only mean a step in the right direction for the wider UK job market.

Contact Jack Johnson on (0)203 861 9176, or, for a discreet conversation regarding your aspirations or recruitment needs.

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