The female chief operating officer of a Newport-based SME finance provider is calling for industry-led unity when it comes to gender equality in honour of International Women’s Day 2019.

Henry Howard Finance, which has its head office at Langstone Business Park, has appointed at least 10 women into senior roles including group financial controller and head of business partnering, among others, in the past year.

Women in the UK are still found to occupy a minority of senior roles in the financial services sector, however, after a parliamentary report described the sector as ‘falling well short’ regarding gender diversity.

This week also marks The Trade Union’s Congress’ Women’s Pay Day, as it is technically seen as the first day that women are paid due to the gender pay gap. Analysis from the TUC found that women work at least two months for free before they start to earn the same as men.

HHF COO Anne Williams meanwhile leads a team which claims a female head of marketing, head of compliance, head of legal, analytics manager, HR manager and more, as well as a near 50/50 gender split in office-based staff.

Anne, who was also a female champion in her previous role with GE Capital, said: “I think the point Henry Howard Finance has to make this International Women’s Day is, if we can do it, so can anyone. There are women in finance – and in senior positions – but not in equal measure or paid at equal measure, which I find personally hugely frustrating.

“The trend for females occupying financial services roles is changing, and along with it the stereotype of finance being a male-dominated industry, but it’s not changing quickly enough. Recruitment activity here in the past year alone goes to show this needn’t be the case.”

According to a report based on Financial Conduct Authority data, out of 9,957 partners at private equity firms, hedge funds and other financial services companies only 1,381 (14 per cent) are women.

The percentage has increased by only two per cent in the past five years despite a plethora of initiatives to increase the participation of women in top finance roles, including the government’s women in finance charter.