Jayne-Anne Gadhia
Jayne-Anne Gadhia, the chief executive of Virgin Money Getty Images

With the aim to achieve a greater gender balance in workplaces and promote the appointment of women in senior roles in the finance industry, the UK government is urging companies to sign up to a voluntary charter, which comprises proposals to further the cause.

If an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimate is to be believed, gender equality in the labour market could push British GDP higher by 10% by 2030. As part of the drive to boost its economic productivity, the government sponsored a review, led by Jayne-Anne Gadhia, the chief executive of Virgin Money.

In her report, Gadhia recommended internal targets for gender diversity in a company's top brass and pay packages linked to the company's gender balance. She also suggested that companies publicly report gender statistics of their respective offices and hire an executive who will exclusively be responsible for gender diversity and inclusion.

The review report, however, made no recommendations regarding any formal targets or quotas for the inclusion of women employees. Gadhia's report said all organisations and individuals associated with them are different and have different views, priorities and requirements. "We did not find a magic bullet," she wrote with regard to improving participation of women in senior finance roles.

In addition to Virgin Money, other big banks in the UK — Lloyds Banking Group, Barclays HSBC and the Royal Bank of Scotland — have committed to endorse the voluntary charter. After three months, the UK Treasury will publish a list of all the companies that sign up for the charter, Reuters reported.

"It is fantastic that a number of leading banks have already committed to sign up to our new Women in Finance Charter and I encourage all firms across the sector to follow suit," said Harriett Baldwin, Economic Secretary to the Treasury.

A study undertaken as part of the review revealed that women in the higher echelons of the UK financial services industry are still very low — with only 14% of women in executive committees in 2015.

Women even lag behind in terms of pay packages. A report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission revealed that women working in financial services, on an average, earn 55% less annually than their male counterparts, compared to a 28% economy-wide pay gap across all industries in the UK.

However, there has been some improvement in the past five years, with women now making up 26% of board positions in the FTSE 100 companies, compared to 12.5% in 2010, according to Davies Review, another government-sponsored report.