A composite image of seven Barclays colleagues.

International Women’s Day 2024: inspiring inclusion and investing in women

08 March 2024

To mark International Women’s Day 2024, seven women from across the bank tell us about the incredible work they are doing to inspire inclusion at Barclays and beyond. 

This year, the International Women’s Day theme ‘Inspire Inclusion’ offers an opportunity to reflect on how Barclays can continue to work towards gender equity.

As part of a wider set of gender priorities, which are focused on colleagues, communities, customers and clients, Barclays strives to achieve gender equality for colleagues at every level in the bank, and recognises there is still work to be done to accelerate the progression of women into senior roles. In 2023, the representation of women at Director and Managing Director grades rose to 30%*, up from 28% in 2021, with the aim to increase this figure to 33% by the end of 2025.

It is also important to celebrate the contributions of colleagues who are proactively working to tackle gender inequity. Seven women from across Barclays reflect on the ambition to build a more diverse, equitable and inclusive organisation – and tell us about the fantastic work they are doing to inspire inclusion.

Ekta Narula, Head of Voice Operations and Business Services, India, sitting in a chair.

Ekta Narula, Head of Voice Operations and Business Services, India

When I started my career over 23 years ago, it was a man’s world. I’m a single parent, and my daughter was just four years old. There was no awareness, no support system.

Across the industry, we need to design and build infrastructure that meets the needs of women, whether that means supporting colleagues returning from maternity leave or offering resources to those experiencing menopause. In turn, that helps retain and develop talent.

As the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) lead at the bank’s Noida campus in India, I’m dedicated to fostering positive change at Barclays – helping to drive key initiatives that bring colleagues from the employee resource groups (ERGs) together. An example of this is a programme called ‘I Inspire’, which invites women from across the bank to share their stories and discuss how they overcame challenges in their careers. 

Katy Bowman, Head of Sponsorship Partnerships, UK

I’m lucky enough to work in a role within the bank that constantly works towards inspiring inclusion. Every day in our world is International Women’s Day.

Throughout my time managing Barclays’ football partnerships, I’ve seen how the Women’s Super League, the Women’s Championship and work in grassroots football have had a big impact in opening doors for women and girls. In 2019 there were only 3,000 schools offering equal access to football for girls but, with our support, there are now over 20,000. We want to inspire young women to believe that they can do whatever they want.

Inspiring inclusion is important all year round, not just on International Women's Day. We need to be consistent with our narrative and our actions, and that comes from having a deep belief in what we are saying and doing. That’s the case at Barclays, and it means that I get to go to work and feel like I’m making a real difference, which is so powerful.

Katy Bowman, Head of Sponsorship Partnerships, UK, looking over her shoulder.
Alexi Braun, Capital Introductions Analyst, US, sitting in front of a window with city buildings in the background.

Alexi Braun, Capital Introductions Analyst, US

Soon after I joined Barclays in 2022, I became part of the Win Junior Advisory Committee (JAC) US, which exists to support women in junior roles.

Win JAC provides a great platform to help women at the bank feel like they can push past barriers. This year, I will be Co-Chair of the Win JAC development committee, helping to organise events and initiatives that will advance the careers of JAC members, including networking sessions, internal and external speaker events and training programmes. International Women’s Day is just an extension of what we try to do every day at Win.

I also support the bank with its undergraduate recruitment activities. Meeting with college students who are interested in pursuing careers in finance is a great way for us to highlight the career opportunities available at Barclays, and allows them to ask any questions they may have.

To inspire inclusion, I believe that it’s essential to have humility. From Barclays’ perspective, and the perspective of the wider finance sector, humility means learning from our mistakes, taking on board constructive criticism, recognising our biases, and always trying to push forward. This is a crucial characteristic both inside and outside of the workplace.

I grew up playing tennis, dancing, and running track, and have always been passionate about women in sports. There is an undeniable correlation not only between humility and the workplace, but between humility and any type of team sport – you need to be able to be humble and recognise mistakes.

Sam White, Head of Specialist Customer Care, UK

I get quite excited that we have a day to celebrate women. I am delighted to be an Executive Sponsor of Win UK, the gender ERG, as well as a member of the Group gender steering committee. I take my role seriously and, as such, I have been supporting all of the great work around women’s health – including how we can improve our provisions and raise awareness across the group.

Last year, I ran sessions with leaders about unlocking their potential – and trying to dispel some of the myths about being a woman and a senior leader. What I really loved about those sessions was that we had a lot of male allies there talking about how women inspire them in the workplace.

Mentoring other women at the bank is also something I’ve found incredibly rewarding. I run colleague sessions where I have no agenda, so I can listen and give people time to share their views. It makes me think differently and it forces me to confront some of my potential biases. Empathy is a particularly important trait to have as a senior leader.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme feels especially important to me. When people are inspired, they automatically feel more included – and then they reach out to and include others.

Sam White, Head of Specialist Customer Care, UK, standing against a blurred landscape.
Tracy Senior, Executive Assistant, UK, stands with a skyscraper in the background.

Tracy Senior, Executive Assistant, UK

I first joined the Win UK Assistants’ Forum back in 2016. Almost eight years on, I now co-chair the forum, which aims to engage, empower, and celebrate the contribution of assistants at the bank, the majority of whom are women, through a mix of activities and development sessions.

The driving force is that we want assistants to have the same opportunities as other people within the organisation – which is why our forum has developed career growth opportunities through knowledge-sharing, mentoring, and networking initiatives. These have been a resounding success, with our annual three-day event of training and development sessions attended by more than 600 colleagues globally in 2023. I’m truly proud of our accomplishments and feel happy when I see my fellow assistants feeling energised.

Representation at Barclays is so important. Being able to see women in leadership roles, from a variety of backgrounds, with different opinions, makes me feel able to bring my whole self to work.

I’m not the same person I was when I first started at the bank. Hosting events and receiving feedback from colleagues has not only helped develop my people skills but my sense of self. My confidence has been boosted because I know that I have a voice – and that people will listen when I speak.

Smriti Bhardwaj, Supplier Manager, Procurement, India

Barclays was the first company I joined after completing my studies. This year marks 15 years since I started working at the bank and my career journey continues to be filled with learning and development opportunities.

I have been part of various ERGs and colleague networks including Win, the Noida Volunteers Network (NVN) and Evolve – an ERG that supports midlife career progression. As a member of Win and Co-Lead of the NVN, I want to empower my peers to stay up-to-date with the latest developments in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space – and put forward new ideas to help enhance workplace culture. All colleagues can play a part in challenging the status quo and championing inclusion at work. 

I believe that leaders play a critical role in fostering inclusion within their teams and the wider organisation. I like to focus on communication and engagement – I keep my team informed and empower them to make decisions, challenge things and ask questions.

Inclusivity is not a one-time project or a static state, but a dynamic and ongoing journey. You should always be willing to learn through experiences, open to growing through challenges, and ready to take on board feedback.

Smriti Bhardwaj, Supplier Manager, Procurement, India, sitting in a chair.
Sophia Seaton, US Recovery and Resolution Planning Director, US, sitting in a chair.

Sophia Seaton, US Recovery and Resolution Planning Director, US

When I was part of a women’s business network at college, a mentor from a large company came to visit and invested energy into helping me develop. At the time, I wondered why she had taken time out of her day to help me.

She might have benefitted from reverse mentorship as part of the experience, but it wasn’t about personal gain: she was just investing her time into helping others. Getting that mentorship at college and in the early years of my career inspired me to do this for other people.

As Chief Operating Officer for Win US, I’m keen to use my leadership position to make a positive difference. I’ve been able to voice the needs of colleagues and have worked with senior leaders to come up with short and long-term solutions to help develop women at the bank – through leadership roundtables, mentoring programmes and training classes. I’m hoping the contributions I’ve made and encouraged others to make will enhance the inclusive and supportive culture at Barclays.

We want to encourage authenticity, embrace differences and create an environment of trust so all colleagues feel able to bring their whole selves to work.

*2023 data subject to independent Limited Assurance under ISAE(UK)3000 and ISAE3410. Current limited assurance scope and opinion can be found within the ESG Resource Hub

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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Barclays

The Barclays Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 2022 report shares the progress that is being made at the bank to ensure that colleagues can thrive in an inclusive environment and make the most of their diverse backgrounds, perspectives and experiences to better serve customers and clients.