Equal rights to govern pensions


Here’s Theresa May talking at PMQ of the triple lock in the past tense. It wasn’t just a female prime minister in that photo, four out of five ministers on the front bench were female.

Parliament is making the transition from a male oligarchy. It has taken a biblical generation; I look at that photo with pride. In the early 80s at College, I was an “anti-sexist” but in the intervening 35 years , my workplace – which has been transformed by technology –  is still male dominated. Financial services has a lot of catching up to do,

On Monday May 8th , the Pension Play Pen lunch will discuss the contention “men do the talking, women do the working”. The debate could be won – as several female correspondents have pointed out- by no women turning up.

I appreciate that many woman do not have the opportunity to relax outside of work, as men do, as they take responsibility for family matters even when at work. This could explain the low ratio of women to men at recent lunches.

But it doesn’t explain the predominance of male dominated pension groups. Conferences are a manifestation of the gender imbalance that we see on trustee, IGC and provider management boards.

At a recent Sage Summit event ,I chaired two all male panels and publicly vowed I not do that again. On June 19th I will be hosting a conference for IFAs on the issues surrounding transferring defined benefit pensions to “pension freedom”. Al Rush, who is doing a sterling job organising, is aware of my threat – “no all male panels and a proper diversity of speakers” or no me!

I hope that my generation of men will pick this up and carry the same attitude into boardrooms. We cannot allow us to be the hegemony, we need to stand down, sit down and listen,


“Sexism” is illegal, we must not break the law.

Women are  sponsors , providers and beneficiaries of pensions. The argument about the triple lock is particularly relevant to women who live longer and are the ultimate recipients of the single state pension.

It is an article of faith in the DNA of families, that pensions are earned by men and that the spouse’s “residual” pension, is what a woman gets when the husband pops his clogs. It comes as a shock to men to discover that the divorce courts consider pensions as much a part of a joint estate as houses and chattels.

The concept behind this is that what a man can earn when a woman is building the family , he is earning for the family. This includes any pension rights. Infact the rights to pensions are family rights and not particular to any person, unless that person chooses not to have a family.

Men are slow to make this adjustment in their thinking and women are slow to assert their rights – not just to the money – but to the management of the pension.

This is no longer an issue of competence.

Any man who feels he is more competent at making financial decisions, as sponsor, provider or beneficiary of a pension, because he is a man – is “de facto” incompetent.

Not only is this evidentially incorrect, it is immoral and verging on the illegal. It is as mistaken as supposing that Christians are superior to Moslems, or Afro-Caribbean’s inferior to Caucasians. That females are different from men is undoubted, that men are superior to women is heresy.

Today I will be attending a pension conference which I hope will show a greater diversity than previous pension conferences. I do believe that the great women of pensions are making that happen,

Lesley Titcomb, Charlotte Clark, Michelle McGrade, Ros Altmann, Caroline Rooks, Helen Dean, Debbie Gupta, Debora Price and Jeannie Drake have changed pension policy and practice from within the public sector. There are many more.

Carolyn Fairbairn, Joanne Seagers, Ann Richards, Emma Douglas, Stella Eastwood and Hilary Salt are women within the private sector who have shaped the way I think and act. There is a new dynamic within the private sector which encourages these people to become leaders.

But the business of private pensions –  is one of those areas where the vestiges of the male hegemony live on. The lack of diversity is particularly present among independent trustees, IGCs and executive boards. My own firm has 8 male and only one female in charge.

It is my generation – those who are ironically the first to enjoy “pension freedom” who are the glass ceiling both to women and broader diversity and it is our job to actively change this.  I am finding it hard to sit still and listen but I must.

At the same time – it is important for women to speak and speak out. The opportunity to lead is still a tough one, no one is pretending that it’s as easy for a woman to lead in pensions as it is a man. But it is vital that women know that the door is open and my generation are sitting in the audience – waiting.

A chance to talk at work

The Pension Play Pen lunch is on May 8th in the Partners Room  at the Counting House in Cornhill, we meet from 12 and the lunch discussion kicks off at 12.30, the formal discussion ends at 1.45 and the meeting disperses by 2pm. The cost is met collectively though you no longer need to pay in cash! All are welcome , but as organiser, I will make sure that both male and female views are given equal airtime!






About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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