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Some UK financial firms blame COVID for missing target of women in senior roles

LONDON, March 17 (Reuters) - Most financial firms and institutions signed up to a UK finance ministry backed charter met their 2020 targets for women in senior management as those who fell behind blamed hiring freezes due to COVID-19, a review said on Wednesday.

The fourth annual review from think tank New Financial for Britain’s finance ministry, said the Women in Finance Charter faced its biggest test yet after the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020.

Over 70& of the 209 signatories, including the finance ministry, have met their self-imposed targets, or were on track to meet future targets, the review said. Just over 60% of the signatories have set a target of at least 33% of female representation in senior management.

A group of 81 firms were due to hit their target by the end of 2020, but 44 of them failed to do so, citing deliberately ambitious targets, and recruitment or promotion freezes due to COVID, the review said.

Asset manager BlackRock missed its 30% target last year, but achieved it in early 2021.

Others who missed in 2020 include Invesco, the Financial Conduct Authority, insurer AXA UK, Funding Circle, Legal & General Group, London Stock Exchange Group, Bank of England, Tesco Bank, and the Financial Reporting Council.

Two-thirds of the 209 signatories are seeking to quantify and qualify the impacts of Covid on women in their workforce.

“It is paramount that our signatories continue to take effective action to improve workplace culture and diversity,” UK financial services minister John Glen said in a statement.

“Since 2016, we have seen notable progress. There is, however, more that needs to be done,” said Catherine McGuinness, political leader of the City of London Corporation, home to the capital’s historic financial district.

The overall level of female representation in senior management across the industry has crept up slowly to 32%.

Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Nick Zieminski

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