Louise Barnes – Principal Consultant, Bravura.
I started my first role in the financial services sector at what you could call a rather traditional fund management company back in 1997.
Despite the long-held industry stereotypes, I had a brilliant experience there. I was lucky to have several strong and intelligent female colleagues who quickly became my role models and I was championed by my male bosses to progress in my career.
I eventually moved on to work for a start-up that provided a platform and account service support for high-net-worth families and private client offices. This was also when I first made the shift into technology and I’ve never looked back.
I joined Bravura as a Principal Consultant in 2016. Since then, I’ve been assigned to various client projects; onboarding new clients, making enhancements on Sonata for them and now I am working on an upgrade project for a long-term client.
Launching Bravura Women’s Network Forum
Having worked for over a quarter of a century in the FS space, I firmly believe it is important for women to work together to identify areas that can be improved and collaborate with their male colleagues to facilitate change, in both the workplace and across wider society.
Of course, we need to be realistic that not every woman has the opportunity to become a CEO, entrepreneur or mountain climber. But EVERY woman can show confidence and give others the opportunity to participate by inspiring people to be brave, bold and empowered to do something new.
To this end, I was invited by Bravura’s HR team to help launch our Women’s Network Forum (BWNF) in 2019.
The forum itself aims to be a relaxed space and we invite members to come forward and share initiatives they would like the group to take forward.
When I first heard about BWNF, my mind instantly went back to the memories of my mum belonging to a women’s club in the ‘80s and even though there was a strong social element to this, they also worked on policy change in society, too, so the idea is nothing new.
Due to the pandemic the network’s progress halted during 2020, but when things started to open up again, it provided the perfect springboard for us to reignite the BWNF the following year.
Since then, we’ve enjoyed some great success in creating progressive policies that impact everyone in the organisation. This includes working with HR and senior management to enhance the level of company maternity leave we are able to offer to UK employees
The UK maternity leave policy change brings Bravura in line with similar companies in our industry, and ideally, we want to lead and be at the forefront of change, too.
But we know this is just one small step, albeit a vital one in the right direction and we will only achieve equality and embrace equity by involving everyone – both men and women – on this journey with us.
To borrow a quote from this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) 2023 theme; “Equality is the goal and equity is the means to get there”.
Celebrating female accomplishments in the workplace
A key goal of BWNF is to become known for running an amazing IWD event each year. The awareness raising initiative has become a key date in the corporate calendar to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, and we see it as a crucial day to give our female colleagues more of a voice in the organisation.
Coming out of the Covid lockdowns last year, we managed to organise a fantastic event in our London office, complete with an expert keynote speaker, Bonita Norris, who (at the time) was the youngest British woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest at the age of 22.
We were joined by around 20 guests from across the world of financial services, representing a real coming together to facilitate positive change in our industry.
This year, the plan was to make the event even better – and given the great feedback from some of the 70 guests we welcomed, I think we succeeded!
Whilst our keynote speaker, Catherine Garrod – a celebrated author and diversity champion – was hugely inspiring, taking stock and seeing the huge amount of people uniting under a common cause was a hugely privileged moment and shows the progress we’re making.
BWNF is a strong and popular group, and one which has already proven that policy change is possible within the organisation. Collectively, we need to be confident in ourselves that we can create change for the better – and women have been paving the way for this for many years.
But we need everyone to come together – male and female; senior and junior – to help put change at the top of our industry’s agenda.
As celebrated historian and author Mary Beard once said: “I have lots of heroes and heroines, mostly unsung and including my husband”.
This year, let’s all try to help give those unsung heroes a voice and make sure we’re acting in everyone’s best interests to help open our industry up to diverse faces and ideas.