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Diversity still an issue in pension sector despite willingness to improve

Diversity, pension sectorDiversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) are a comparatively low priority for the majority of pension scheme trustees, with trustee boards remaining "overwhelmingly" male, research suggests.

Research commissioned by investment management and advisory firm Cardano found that 58% of pension trustees think DEI is a low priority compared to other governance issues, with most failing to follow any significant DEI standards.

However, a majority (63%) do believe that DEI helps broaden a team's skillset and improve governance and decision-making for better outcomes.

Joanne Segars, chair of the board of trustees at NOW: Pensions, said despite positive changes over the last 30 years since she joined the industry, there is still a long way to go regarding diversity in gender, age, ethnicity, and socio-economic background.

The research, which was carried out by Mallowstreet among over 100 trustees in the UK, further revealed that overall trustee boards remain male-dominated, over the age of 45, and with tertiary education.

But compared to traditional pension scheme boards, the research showed professional trustee firms were more diverse in age and gender. More than 40% of trustees in over a third of professional trustee firms surveyed are female, with 40% of board members below the age of 45 at one in five firms.

Segars said that being one of the few female chairs in the sector meant she could "continue to challenge the status quo and inspire more women to become trustees".

Over half of professional trustee firms have conducted or are planning to arrange diversity and inclusion training to enhance DEI, with 38% having a formal zero-tolerance policy for harassment or bullying in place.

Commenting on the survey findings, Gillie Tomlinson, head of trustee engagement at Cardano, said: "While this data might not be surprising, lots of pension trustee boards, particularly those with professional trustees in place, are keen to make meaningful, positive changes to drive the industry forwards."

Tomlinson added that the industry must work together and challenge how to improve the attractiveness of people from diverse backgrounds to become professional and lay pension trustees.

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