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Our schools' initiative: driving diversity for the future

19 / 11 / 2019

Diversity and inclusion are issues we take very seriously here at Barclay Simpson. As a firm that specialises in recruiting for the interrelated disciplines of governance, we recognise that many of the industries we support still have room for improvement when it comes to diversity. We also know many businesses have placed these discussions at the top of their agenda.

One of the biggest challenges we face when compiling diverse candidate shortlists for our clients is a shortage of suitable people, particularly at the most senior levels where we are most active. Our teams help businesses attract and retain talented professionals; but we firmly believe encouraging more people from diverse backgrounds into these professions from a young age ensures a stronger, more reliable talent pipeline for the future.

That's why Barclay Simpson has been forging effective partnerships with schools in and around London to raise awareness of the career opportunities available within the financial services sector. As we approach the end of 2019, I'd like to take the time to discuss some of the highlights of a fantastic year for our schools' initiative.

Inspiring the female leaders of tomorrow

Many of the academic institutions we have worked with over the last 12 months have been all girls' schools because gender equality is a key issue in organisations across the country. Flagship initiatives such as the Women in Finance Charter followed government-sponsored reviews into the lack of representation of women, especially at senior levels, within financial services. 

The situation is improving, but our own research shows there is still a gender imbalance in some industry segments and disciplines. For example, in our 2019 Market Reports, men were more likely than women to work in roles across risk management, internal audit, compliance and security. The imbalance in security was especially stark, with 90% of professionals in our survey identifying as male.

We were very keen to connect with girls as they began to consider their career choices. Three all girls' schools welcomed us into their classrooms and assembly halls to engage with students:

  • St Catherine's School, Bramley;
  • James Allen's Girls' School (JAGS), Dulwich; and
  • Tolworth Girls' School, Surbiton. 

We tailored our visits to meet the individual needs and objectives of each school. At St Catherine's, three of our clients accompanied us on the day to discuss their differing experiences of forging careers in the financial services sector as women. For Tolworth, we hosted a cyber security workshop on hacking, which was led by our clients BT and GSMA, for pupils in the school's top-flight maths set.

Meanwhile, the girls at JAGS were eager to learn practical advice from us as recruitment specialists, such as how to apply for jobs, spruce up their LinkedIn profiles and get work experience:

Altering preconceptions of jobs in financial services

Every event was an eye-opening experience not just for the pupils, but also our consultants and clients. One of the key lessons we learned is that students are much more open to the idea of working in financial services once they realise many successful professionals within the industry don't have maths degrees or even A-level maths.

It was wonderful to be able to open students' minds to the many different roles, teams and divisions at financial organisations, all of which have jobs that are suitable to people with a range of skillsets and backgrounds.

Rachel Hewitt, Sixth Form Careers Adviser at Tolworth, said their event was a great success. The school is already working hard to increase girls' aspirations and introduce them to new and developing career sectors.

"Sophie Jdouri from Barclay Simpson met with me to establish expectations and goals. Then, working alongside her colleagues from GSMA and BT, they delivered a pitch-perfect interactive workshop that educated and inspired our girls."

This event was particularly close to Sophie's heart, as she was a former pupil at Tolworth and was delighted to have the opportunity to give something back to her local community. Tolworth is also a state school with a number of under-privileged children, which gave us the chance to reach girls who had perhaps never even considered that a job in cyber security could be a real possibility for them.

Tackling wider diversity issues

While our schools' initiative has primarily focused on encouraging more girls to consider jobs in financial services, we also worked to address other areas of diversity during our events. Indeed, a lack of social mobility has been highlighted by various studies in recent years.

A government report found elite law, accountancy and finance firms gave 70% of jobs to people from private or selective school backgrounds. KPMG revealed that 41% of finance professionals followed their parents' footsteps into the industry. This is three times the national average. With this in mind, we're always keen to partner with schools for less privileged children.

In addition to Tolworth, we also worked in partnership with Credit Suisse on a week-long work experience placement for eight lucky Sixth Form students from the Haileybury and Haileybury Turnford schools in Hertford. While Haileybury is a private school, Haileybury Turnford is a community school that recently featured on the Channel 4 series The Secret Teacher. This was a great opportunity for pupils from a range of backgrounds to experience what it's like to work for one of the world's leading banks.


James Walker, a former Haileyburian and current Senior Internal Audit Manager at Credit Suisse, contacted Barclay Simpson's Josh Lawson (another Haileybury alumnus) to run a careers-focused workshop during the week-long placement.

Josh and I went in on the first day to offer a careers masterclass, which included interview techniques, CV coaching, establishing and optimising LinkedIn profiles, and networking sessions. These helped give students the skills and confidence they needed before they shadowed Credit Suisse employees throughout the rest of the week.

"Following the great success of this programme, it is hoped that it will become an ongoing initiative that also encourages other Old Haileyburians across a range of industries to support future generations," James said.

Looking ahead to 2020

These were just some of the events we've hosted at schools in the UK this year. We're delighted many of our clients are taking proactive steps to prioritise diversity and inclusion, a philosophy that closely aligns with our own commitment to promoting these values within Barclay Simpson.

We received overwhelmingly positive feedback from both clients and pupils throughout our schools' initiative. It's also been a great experience for me and my colleagues who have participated in the events, particularly those who got to give something back to the schools they had previously attended.

We hope to build further on our diversity and inclusion projects in 2020 and beyond, so stay tuned for more updates on what we have planned. If you would like to learn more about our recruitment processes or campaigns, please get in touch with me on 0207 936 2601 or via email at SS@barclaysimpson.com.

Our 2019 Market Reports combine our review of the prevailing conditions in the corporate governance recruitment market with the results of our latest employer and candidate surveys.

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