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Accelerate 50/50: gender equality as a catalyst for sustainable change in the financial sector


Leading up to International Women's Day, the second Accelerate 50/50 report was launched last week, March 1st. Though you might not have been able to join us, we’re happy to share the details of this vibrant afternoon with you.

We’re excited to reflect in both words and pictures on this vibrant afternoon where we were welcomed at Athora Netherlands.Curious to see more pictures? Visit the photo album here.

Led by moderator Henk Jansen, the audience was challenged and inspired by various speakers. Keynote speaker Wendy Broersen, expert on diversity and inclusion, emphasized that achieving gender balance is not only the responsibility of HR, but of every leader. She introduced a straightforward but impactful model, which she also in her book.

Wendy challenged the audience to evaluate their organizations using the five stages of embedding diversity. At each stage, more people sat down. The result was that only a handful were at stage five, meaning DEI is embedded in their strategy and culture. In a well-filled room, this delineated the current situation and the importance to accelerate. If you’re looking to get inspired and learn from Wendy, her book "Not for HR" is a must read, she shares many insights and inspiration. All participants received a copy of the book at courtesy of ING Netherlands.

Following this inspiring keynote, Henk and Laura Lee, Manager of Inclusion & Diversity at Van Lanschot Kempen, engaged in a conversation about lessons learned on the road to 50/50. Laura shared best practices from Van Lanschot Kempen.

After a short break, Jason Jie of the Accelerate 50/50 project team officially launched the report and handed the first digital copy to Richard Weurding, director of the Association of Insurers. The insurance sector is a pioneer compared to other subsectors in the FSI and is leading the way in courses toward gender-balanced leadership.

In a world yearning for gender balance, it's time to embrace discomfort as a catalyst for change. During the interactive reflection, WIFS board members Diana Zandbergen and Mirelle van Gemert challenged the status quo with four industry leaders, including Femke Bakker (Turien & Co.), Indra Frishert (Dazure) Paul de Kroon (Deutsche Bank) and Willeke van de Weerd (Ecclesia).

What followed was a strong discussion, on necessary themes, fueled by thought provoking statements. It challenged making bold choices, for example, about how disrupting existing systems and engaging in courageous dialogues is essential for progress.

The discussion revealed divisions, but also a shared conviction: the need for inclusive leadership that recognizes and embraces the richness of perspectives. Particular attention was paid to the role of men who dominate leadership within the Dutch financial sector. Their active contribution is crucial to accelerating gender-balanced leadership.

Accelerate 50/50: the report
The financial sector is leading the way in accelerating gender-balanced leadership. The Accelerate 50/50 research shows that over the past year, the number of women on executive boards within the financial sector has increased by 7%. These are encouraging developments, but the need for further actions to promote gender diversity and inclusiveness within the industry remains. This is especially true for industry consultancies, which lag behind other financial institutions.

Leading up to International Women's Day 2024, the survey results underscore the need for continued efforts to accelerate the path to gender-balanced leadership. While the report shows progress, it also reveals the challenges, pitfalls and action items for the future:

The challenges:

  • Building an inclusive corporate culture.
  • Human-centered leadership with a focus on female qualities.
  • Outflow of women in the leadership pipeline.

The call to action:

  • Embedding new perspectives.
  • Redefining the definition of success.
  • Breaking through systemic barriers.

The full report provides in-depth insights into the state of gender diversity in the financial sector and is available here.

Accelerate 50/50 is an initiative of WIFS and Deloitte that aims to bring gender balance within the top ranks of the financial sector. We do not settle for the legal quota, only an ambition of 50/50 makes sense.