As we reach the culmination of The Elders’ #WalkTogether campaign, Virgin Unite are celebrating Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday, his legacy and the founding of The Elders. 

The #WalkTogether campaign has built a bright web made up of 'Sparks of Hope' – communities building a movement for the freedoms Mandela dedicated his life to: peace, health, justice and equality.  Virgin CEOs and staff members from all over the world have written about their own Sparks of Hope and for the next month we invite you to read their stories and join the global #WalkTogether movement.

Below is Jayne-Anne Gadhia's Spark of Hope story. Jayne-Anne is Chief Executive at Virgin Money and the government’s Women in Finance Champion.

In 2015, as part of the UK government’s drive to improve economic productivity, I was asked to undertake a review into why women make less progress in financial services than in other industries. 

The review unearthed significant barriers to the progress of women and noted that breaking down such barriers would improve performance, productivity and profitability for businesses and the UK economy as a whole. The review resulted in the Women in Finance Charter which made four key recommendations to improve gender diversity and recognised that organisations will have different starting points when it comes to having a balanced workforce.

My ambition was for it to play a strong part in the drive for increased diversity in UK financial services and for the sector to grasp the opportunity to better reflect the society it serves.

The Women in Finance Charter has resulted in more financial services firms engaging on the issue of gender diversity, and it now covers over 200 firms, employing over 650,000 people in the UK, and I am delighted that it continues to gain in momentum. It has also had a ripple effect beyond financial services and helped to stimulate broader conversations about diversity in the workplace. 

Because as a society the UK needs to fully harness the talents of every individual.

Our shared goal must be to build a society in which individuals can fulfil their potential and play a full role in our society, regardless of their gender - nor race, background, sexual orientation or age for that matter. Because as a society the UK needs to fully harness the talents of every individual. 

Equal representation in politics, business, and our working lives, fighting for equal pay and an equal opportunity to thrive, and creating opportunities for everyone – are all objectives that I care about passionately. The key of course is to avoid complacency and to ensure that we maintain the momentum needed to meet our moral and economic obligations.

I am pleased to say that more and more business leaders are using their vision, energy and drive to make it happen, speaking about it publicly and walking the walk. If the Charter has created even a spark of hope then it is down to all of us to embrace diversity, hold business leaders’ feet to the fire on the cut and dried case for fairness, equality and inclusion and ensure we create a society where everyone can prosper. There is lots more to be done but I am filled with optimism as to what we can achieve.

Virgin Unite, #WalkTogether, The Elders

Jayne-Anne Gadhia is Chief Executive at Virgin Money and the government’s Women in Finance Champion