Women in Insolvency: The imbalance at the top

Turnkey Exchange

Join Mark Simpson for season two of the Turnkey Exchange where his guests will be sharing their experiences as women within the insolvency industry.

In a traditionally male-dominated industry, an increasing number of firms are putting more focus on helping women progress their careers within the insolvency profession, but is it working?

On this season of the Turnkey Exchange, Mark welcomes Michelle Elliot, Ali Wisbey, and Arabella Ranby-Gorwood to explore key issues facing women in the insolvency industry. In the first episode, they explore the split of males and females within the industry as a whole as well as the disparity that exists in senior positions. They also explore the barriers women face in reaching the top and the difficulties both men and women face in balancing personal commitments with their careers.

Future episodes of this mini-series will explore diversity and inclusivity within insolvency as well as provide advice for young professionals starting in the industry.

Meet Our Speakers

Ali Wisbey

Ali Wisbey

Risk & Technical Director, Interpath Ltd

With over 30 years insolvency experience, Ali is a director in Interpath’s risk and technical team providing risk and technical support across the business, with a particular focus on regulatory oversight. She is also the firm’s Data Protection Officer and FCA Compliance Officer.

Michelle Elliot

Michelle Elliot

Partner, FRP

Michelle is a partner in FRP based in Glasgow. She works with lenders, directors and shareholders on advisory and restructuring/insolvency engagements.

Arabella Ranby-Gorwood

Arabella Ranby-Gorwood

Insolvency Practitioner, CRG Insolvency & Financial Recovery

Arabella won the IPA’s Rising Star of the Year Award for 2022, which led her to take on the role of Chair of the Early Career Professionals Committee. Whilst Arabella remains actively involved in extensive investigation cases, her main role focuses on property asset disposals, advising lenders to optimise value for property, through various insolvency procedures.

Kicking off the discussion, Mark introduced findings from a recent R3 survey which suggests that within the industry as a whole, 52% are men and 48% are women. Our guests felt that this statistic was accurate with their experience however all of them felt that there was still a clear imbalance between the genders in senior positions, albeit they have witnessed positive change within this area in recent years.

Michelle pointed out that it is obvious from the stats that the industry is attracting talent and that it is hugely encouraging to see a significant proportion of females beginning to reach Manager and Director levels however questioned whether it’s the nature of the work or the culture of the industry itself which is preventing them from progressing further.

Echoing Michelle’s sentiments, Ali added that the industry itself has traditionally been male-dominated and change can’t be expected to happen overnight, but she has witnessed firms making the effort to shift this and has seen real progress in this area:

“I think it’s important to remember as well that we’re in a profession where there’s a lot of history. And of course, as part of that history, it was initially males that were doing those roles and dominating the profession. So, it is going to take time for that to turn itself around. It’s quite a significant shift that’s required to move that, but I do definitely think that it’s on people’s agenda and we’re seeing some significant change. Certainly in the last few years, I’ve seen really quite a lot more significant change happening.”

Ali Wisbey, Risk & Technical Director at Interpath Ltd

Ali Wisbey

Moving on, Mark asked our panel whether they felt the traditional view of women in the workplace and the work-life balance had a part to play in this disparity to which Ali shared some insights from a recent article she’d read. This explored the issue from the male perspective of a father wanting to do his share of the parental duties and the challenges he faced. Interestingly, it seems both genders are trying to tackle the same issue and strike a balance between their work and home lives but coming at it from opposite sides of the spectrum.

Arabella acknowledged that although there is still an expectation on women to work whilst also taking care of the family and the home, she felt there had been a shift in attitudes nowadays where there is now a higher expectation on men now to take on more of the household duties. During her time studying for the JIEB exam, Arabella made an interesting observation regarding the age gap of her peers and found that the men appeared to be just starting in their marriages and beginning a family whereas the women seemed to have waited until later in their lives after they’d already had their children to take the exams.

There is no doubt that the industry is evolving as Michelle pointed out that there has been significant change with regard to the three barriers to women reaching senior positions which the R3 identified over 10 years ago.

Michelle Elliot

R3 looked at Women and restructuring 10 years ago and they kind of noted three barriers to why they weren’t in senior positions. One was the culture; one was the nature of insolvency work and one was the lack of role models. And I guess if you take that first one, the culture, I think that’s massively changed over the 10 years naturally but accelerated significantly because of Covid.

The acceptance of the hybrid working arrangement and you know, it’s not presenteeism, i.e. you’re only doing work if you’re sitting in a desk in a certain location, is a significant change.

Michelle Elliot, Partner at FRP

Michelle and Ali both agreed that the acceptance of hybrid working will drastically change the industry for the better and enabling people to flex the way they work to fit their family, social, and sporting commitments is a step forward in helping to redress the imbalance we see today. Rather than hybrid working, Arabella’s firm prefers to be office-based as it allows them to easily collaborate on cases however find that offering their team flexible working has gone a long way in accommodating staff needs and balancing their work and personal lives.

And that concludes our round up of the key issues covered in the first episode in our Women in Insolvency series on the Turnkey Exchange. If you haven’t already, you can listen to the full recording on the Turnkey Exchange Hub or on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Amazon Music.

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