Gender and Leadership

What makes a good leader?

There’s no real right or wrong answer. People are different and will inevitably want different things from those leading them. Some people may prefer a more hands-on approach, while others want to be trusted to get on and perform their role with less micro-management. Nonetheless, certain qualities do spring to mind when we talk about leaders. For example, a successful leader might demonstrate:

  • Adaptability
  • Resourcefulness
  • Open-mindedness
  • Approachability
  • Assertiveness
  • Fairness
  • Professionalism

What links the above, however, is that they are attributes – certain skills and qualities a person has. Characteristics, on the other hand, such as gender and ethnicity should have no bearing on a person’s ability to lead.  

However, research commissioned by the Young Women’s Trust has found that one in five women still believe their workplace is sexist. One in 10 men, meanwhile, think men are better managers than women.

Logically, gender should have no bearing on an individual’s skills in management and leadership, but this research suggests that preconceptions and bias still exist.

In practical terms, there should be no real reason why individuals should favour a male leader over a female one. Day-to-day, what matters more is that employees feel valued, motivated, inspired, trusted – the list goes on. Gender shouldn’t make any difference.

Of course, this isn’t necessarily the reality, particularly in traditionally male-dominated industries.

In a bid to tackle this issue, the FCA has set specific targets for increasing female representation in leadership roles. This, it says, is to reflect the society it represents in its day to day work.

These targets are:

  • 45% of the FCA’s Senior Leadership Team (SLT) to identify as female by 2020
  • 50% of the FCA’s SLT to identify as female by 2025

Such targets are a positive starting point, that reflects the regulator’s continuing focus on promoting diversity and inclusion in financial services.

Highlighting its commitment to addressing sexism in the industry, the FCA recently published its gender pay gap in its Annual Report and Accounts 2018/19. For the year ending 31 March 2019, this is 20.6% (median) and 17.9% (mean). The FCA has, however, stated that this is not yet satisfactory and that, “we know we have work to do and are taking a number of actions to help address our pay gaps”.[1]

Improving conduct in financial services is a priority for the FCA through the implementation of the Senior Managers and Certification Regime (SM&CR), which will apply to general insurance intermediaries from December 2019. Diverse and inclusive workplaces are arguably a part of developing a healthy culture. Of course, this applies not only to gender but to diversity in age, ethnicity, socio-economic background and many other characteristics.

A diverse workplace and leadership team - including at board level - will hopefully result in better decision-making, innovation and challenge. 



About the author

Lisa joined RWA in 2014 as an e-Learning Assistant, designing training material for the Aviva Development Zone e-learning platform.

Her role as Head of Content and Communications involves the editorship of RWA Insight. It also includes reviewing e-learning content as well as providing proofreading, copywriting and standards support across the business.

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