Last week we were delighted to announce that Ipswich Building Society has signed up to the Women in Finance Charter, committing us to improving gender balance across the UK Finance sector. The Charter is an initiative from HM Treasury reflecting the government’s aspiration to see a fairer and more gender-balanced sector across all levels. The charter commits firms to support the progression of women into senior roles and requires them to publicly report on their progress against these targets to drive transparency and accountability.
As a mutual society, fairness and equality are at the core of our business model as they have been since we were founded as the Ipswich & Suffolk Freehold Land Society (FLS) in 1849. The FLS was established on a belief that all members, regardless of gender or age, should be treated equally and be entitled to vote on how the Society is run. At a time where women would not be able to vote in national elections for another sixty or seventy years, the decision to give equal voting rights to both men and women was extraordinary.
In 1885 records show that in a ballot of 9 houses on a newly-constructed estate in Felixstowe, no fewer than five went to female members, meaning that a significant proportion of the 470 members balloted must have been women. It’s possible that many women were encouraged to set up businesses and take advantage of the newly passed Married Women's Property Act 1882, which significantly altered English law regarding the property rights of married women, and besides other matters, allowed married women to own and control property in their own right.
Today we are a very different Society, and while we don’t build and ballot houses anymore, we try to remain true to the principles on which we were founded. This year more than 70% of our staff are female, with women representing 45% of our Senior Management Team. We remain committed to fostering a workforce free from discrimination in all its forms and proudly diverse, ensuring equal opportunities for all staff and progression based on merit.
Through the charter we’ve committed to achieving 30% female representation on our Board of Directors by 2023 (currently 22%) and will be undertaking a programme of unconscious bias training for all recruiting managers within 12 months. We will also continue to review all salaries annually to ensure there are no equality issues.
We’re proud to be empowering women in the financial services industry, following in the footsteps of our FLS forefathers.