Firms lacking transparency on parental leave risk losing top talent

Asset managers that fail to disclose their parental leave policies risk losing out on top female talent to other industries.

By Amie Keeley 6 January 2021

The warning comes after new research showed that almost 40 per cent of Europe’s largest asset managers do not make any reference to support for working families on their global websites. Recruitment and diversity experts say the lack of transparency is deterring potential candidates from applying for roles at these firms.

Kirsty Pineger, Executive Director at Bruin Financial, a specialist recruitment firm, says: “If you have companies that are happy to be very explicit [about their policies], but there is silence from [asset managers], those firms will lose people to [other] industries.”

She says many candidates are forced to ask recruiters about a company’s parental leave policy as they are reluctant to bring it up in interviews for fear of it being used against them.

Executive Coaching Consultancy, which carried out the research exclusively for Ignites Europe, examined the 11 largest firms by assets under management in Europe, as well as listed asset managers.

Researchers replicated the experience of a prospective job applicant searching an asset manager’s website for information on the support it offers to working parents and scored companies accordingly.

When looking at the European websites of asset managers, including those at country level, half do not reference any support for working parents.

Forty per cent provide a general statement of support but no details.

Only two firms – Standard Life Aberdeen and Aviva Investors – receive a top “beacon rating”, meaning they publicise full details of their parental leave policies with staff testimonials, and track pay and career progress of flexible workers.

Four firms receive a “full visibility” score, meaning they publish details of policies that support working parents on their websites, including terms of pay and duration of leave.

Geraldine Gallacher, chief executive officer of Executive Coaching Consultancy, says recruitment consultants often have to “go around the back door” to find out what their clients offer in terms of support for parents.

Mandy Kirby, chief strategist at City Hive, a diversity group, says: “The firms that allow potential candidates to see up front what their policies are will help encourage applications and can pave the way for honest conversations during the recruitment process.”

A City Hive survey undertaken earlier this year found that transparency and clarity on parental leave policies were the top priority among candidates.

“Changing roles can be very time consuming and stressful, so when someone with small children has found an employer that is transparent and supportive, they are likely to stay,” Ms Kirby says.

“Transparency on policies undoubtedly helps and is part of the solution to unlocking more female representation at senior levels.”

The proportion of female fund managers in the UK has stayed at around 10 per cent in the past four years, while the industry’s gender pay gap is the second largest of any UK sector, superseded only by investment banking.

Helen Ilsley, head of business development and client lead at Executive Coaching Consultancy, says a more diverse workforce not only improves performance but also plays an important role in asset managers’ social responsibility.

“It’s really putting a spotlight on that reputational piece, especially for the asset managers [that] are the ones with the genuine shareholder power and influence to be able to enforce that elsewhere,” she says.

Ms Gallacher adds that parental leave is becoming increasingly important for male parents too.

“[Employers] are not recognising the rise of dual career couples,” she says. “You need to appeal to [all] people with parental responsibilities because younger people are asking these questions.”