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Why aren't there more female FDs in the recruitment sector?

Networking 3

Why aren't there more female FDs in the recruitment sector?

Camino Partners and Saffrey Champners put on a speed mentoring event for women in finance positions in the recruitment sector in honour of International Women's Day.

Why did we need to do this?

From a study I conducted of over 200 recruitment businesses, 55.3% of Financial Controllers were female whereas women only made up 19.7% of Finance Directors.

This shows that we have enough women in finance positions in the recruitment sector trying to take that next step up into the FD role but for some reason are struggling to attain a directorship level.

Interestingly, the smaller recruitment business had more equal gender representation at board level in finance. My study showed that:

  • In businesses between £5m-30m turnover, 27% of Finance Directors were women.

  • In businesses between £30m-70m turnover, 19% of Finance Directors were women.

  • In businesses £70m+ turnover, 13% of Finance Directors were women.

What was learnt from our mentoring event?

We had three excellent mentors at our event: Poonam Mawani (Director of Azuki Accounts), Lauren Alexander (Finance Director of Cornwallis Elt) and Sue Lewis (Finance Director of BIE Executive). They all gave invaluable advice to our mentees all about how to be successful in a recruitment business and how to progress.

Here are my favourite three takeaways from our mentoring session:

I know that I am ready to take that next step up, but how do I ask for a promotion?

Be prepared, be confident and know your unique selling points. For example, if you have been with the business for a long time and your selling point is your tenure and your knowledge of the organisation then highlight this. Point out the future challenges that are going to affect the business (e.g. IR35) and underline that you will be the best person to implement these changes into the business.

How do I keep myself updated and knowledgeable about changes in legislation?

Read, ask and learn. There are so many sources out there that will help to keep you updated. HMRC have a free podcast that you could listen to whilst you're eating lunch, APSCO have knowledgeable sector-specific blogs, content and events, and don't forget that Camino Partners have regular articles and events and for finance professionals in the recruitment sector! Networking is a great way to learn more and share ideas with peers in similar situations. It's also highly recommended that you get a mentor outside of your organisation - someone whom you can bounce ideas off and ask for advice.

How do I challenge and get the buy-in from big-personality stakeholders?

This can be tricky and don't beat yourself up if you're finding it difficult. Your approach will differ stakeholder-to-stakeholder but sometimes it takes time and consistently proving yourself to gain their respect and ultimately their trust. Don't be afraid to challenge them. It's also worth having someone outside of your organisation (e.g. a mentor) who can be a sounding board for your ideas, sometimes just to confirm what you already thought but give you the confidence to push back (although ensure you're not betraying the confidentiality of your business!)

What can we do?

The Trade Union Congress published a report two days ago that stated that it is going to take 60 years for the gender pay gap to close, which is far too long.

There are plenty that businesses need to be doing to improve the representation of women in board-level positions, but what can we do to ensure our own success?

Get a mentor, go to networking events, make sure that you ask for that pay rise or promotion, think about the duties in job specs that you CAN do and not the ones that you CAN'T do, help other women to progress in your organisation, and if you're not in a business that supports your personal growth and development - find one that does.