In a Nutshell: From politicians to CEOs, it can often seem that “equality” and “diversity” are empty words mouthed for the sake of public image, with few actual changes ever made. In contrast, Mastercard earns our Editor’s Choice™ Award for its commitment to gender equality, which it demonstrates by taking real actions to close the gender gap in both the finance industry — and the global economy as a whole. The payments giant has made a strong statement with its pledge to HM Treasury’s Women in Finance Charter in the UK, but Mastercard’s dedication goes beyond the Charter to create gender balance throughout the company. Utilizing its global presence, Mastercard also extends into classrooms to encourage young women to explore STEM fields, as well as bridging the access gap for women around the world.
While it may vary some by region, the ratio of males to females across the global population is approximately 1:1, meaning the world contains about the same number of males as it does females. Despite being roughly equal in sheer numbers, however, huge disparities exist in the way women are represented — and compensated — in both global and local economies.
Analyzing data from 144 countries worldwide, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2016 looks at the disparities between men and women in a number of key areas, or sub-indexes. One of the most stagnant of those areas is the Economic Participation and Opportunity sub-index, which measures factors such a female labor force participation, wage equality, and the proportion of women in management roles.
Unsurprising to many, the report found that the global economic gender gap is a staggering 41% — and women are on the losing end. While it may be easy to assume the numbers are being weighed down by developing countries with outdated gender views, the sad truth is that many of the most technologically advanced nations seem to be nearly as backward when it comes to equality in the workforce. For example, the United States has a startling 25% economic gender gap, and the United Kingdom 30%.
Furthermore, the numbers get worse as you break them down by category, becoming downright disheartening when analyzed by industry. And while we constantly hear about the parity problems in the technology sectors, the worst offender is actually the finance industry — across which women hold a meager 16% of the senior roles (12% fewer than in technology and media).
Thankfully, an increasing number of companies are recognizing that diversity can have as much positive impact on the bottom line as it does on the public image. Many of the biggest names in finance are taking strides to close the gender gap, including global payments giant, Mastercard. In particular, Mastercard has earned our Editor’s Choice™ Award for its demonstrated commitment to gender equality both within the organization and in the community as a whole.
“Gender diversity can be found in so many aspects of how we conduct business,” said Eimear Creaven, Senior VP of Sales and Business Management for Mastercard UK & Ireland. “And we have a range of goals, not only across our employees, leadership, and products, but with women entrepreneurs and financial inclusion, as well.”
Enacting Change as a Signatory of HM Treasury’s Women in Finance Charter
As a worldwide household name, Mastercard’s work to advance gender balance affects more than its thousands of employees, or even the hoards of women trapped in the gender gap of the financial industry. The company’s dedication to diversity also sends an important message on inclusion to companies across the global marketplace.
Along that vein, Mastercard UK helped broadcast the company’s commitment to closing the gender gap to the world by becoming one of the 144 companies to sign HM Treasury’s Women in Finance Charter in 2016.
“Put simply, the Women in Finance Charter is a pledge for gender balance across financial services in the UK,” explained Eimear. “Signing the charter was really important for us because we’re an organization that’s strongly committed to gender balance, and we wanted to take a leading role in the industry. Those who sign the charter are pledging to be the best businesses in the sector.”
Built upon four key industry actions as recommended by Jayne-Anne Gadhia (CEO of Virgin Money UK), the Women in Finance Charter helps define specific goals to improve the representation of women in the finance industry.
Mastercard’s pledged goals include having at least one qualified female candidate on the slate for all mid-level and senior vacancies in the UK, as well as working toward an overall senior team that is at least 40% female.
“We have set internal targets for gender diversity in senior management, and we link the pay of our senior team to our progress against them,” Eimear described. “We have appointed one member of the senior executive team to be responsible for gender diversity and inclusion, and we publish progress on our website annually.”
Additionally, the company will continue to develop policies to support flexible work options, which enable everyone — and women in particular — to enjoy a better work-life balance.
“Our policies enable our employees to balance work and home commitments, so they can do their job when and where they work best. We have flexible working options that employees can formalize with their manager,” said Eimear. “We’ve found this to be really successful as we understand that flexible working isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ concept — everyone is different.”
Extending the Dedication to Equality Beyond the Charter
Of course, Mastercard’s pledge to the Women in Finance Charter is hardly the extent of the company’s dedication to gender equality. While perhaps inspired by the UK pledge, Mastercard has adopted policies aimed at increasing the proportion of women to create a balanced workforce across the entire organization.
“Approximately 40% of our employees are women, but we strive to have a 50/50 split in all regions around the globe,” Eimear said. “We have taken a very proactive approach to building a pipeline of strong future women leaders. For every ‘feeder’ role, we have now put in place a process to ensure our slate is diverse and that every open position must have at least one woman candidate as part of the recruitment process.”
Knowing that closing the gender gap is about more than simply hiring more women, Mastercard also works to ensure those women aren’t falling on the wrong side of an income gap. That said, the company knows the process is a continuing one.
“We strive to ensure gender pay parity. We regularly examine pay practices, and at our company globally, men and women in the same level earn equal pay for equal performance,” said Eimear. “But we realize this is something that needs vigilance and annual review.”
The company has started a program designed to address another common hurdle faced by women in the workplace: career gaps. In particular, taking time off of work to have and/or raise children can have significant (negative) impacts on a woman’s career, leading to demotions or drops in pay upon their return. Mastercard’s Relaunch Your Career program offers a sort of mid-career internship called a returnship.
“Relaunch Your Career is a 12-week program that is open to both men and women. Returners work on strategic and commercial projects during their placement, and are given a range of support and tools including a formal induction, on-the-job training, a buddy, learning resources and coaching,” Eimear explained. “At the end of the program, they can apply for a permanent role.”
According to Eimear, Mastercard has found great success with the program and feedback from returners has been positive. The company launched the program in their Dubai sector in the first half of 2017 and plans to launch the program in Belgium in the near future. Applications for 2018 programs in the UK and Ireland open on September 11, 2017.
Encouraging Gender Parity in the Community and Beyond
Mastercard’s dedication to gender parity also extends beyond its own walls, reaching to encompass clients, customers, and communities, as well.
“We have a strong supplier diversity program, which offers opportunities to female-owned businesses around the world,” described Eimear. “And our Women’s Leadership Network has 2,600 members worldwide. The network works on addressing the needs of diverse consumers by providing feedback on new ideas and initiatives, partnering with specific organizations and reaching out to their communities.”
The company also works closely with UN Women to drive the financial inclusion and economic empowerment of women around the world. One way Mastercard helps these women is by enabling them to obtain the resources they need to achieve equal recognition and access.
“1.5 billion people around the world don’t have a formal proof of identity — and most are women,” Eimear said. “We are working on issuing ID cards that are enabled with electronic payments. Research shows that when women have access to these two things, they can prosper in ways they haven’t imagined before.”
Mastercard’s involvement isn’t limited to those in the workforce, either. As is becoming increasingly evident, helping women thrive in finance, and other STEM fields, isn’t merely about how you hire — it’s also about how you educate.
“We believe gender balance in the technology and finance industries will only be achieved if we encourage girls to get involved in STEM subjects in school,” Eimear explained. “Our Girls4Tech program showcases our payments technology and engages our employees as role models and mentors — all with the goal to inspire careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. Since the program’s launch in 2014, we’ve reached more than 22,000 girls in 16 countries.”
Mastercard Uses Its Global Reach for Good
Across the global financial industry, women hold a measly 16% of the senior executive roles — less than any other industry. Perhaps worse, that number isn’t growing; in fact, it’s shown an overall loss of 4% over the last five years.
Standing up for change in the financial sector, Mastercard has implemented programs across its organization designed to help improve gender balance and close the gap plaguing financial services for good. Those programs and the company’s pledge to the Women in Finance charter make a strong statement to the global marketplace and set a high bar for Mastercard’s dedication to diversity.
Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.