Like most of the financial services industry, the debt collection sector has traditionally been male-dominated. But thankfully things are changing – for the benefit of both businesses and customers.

Here at the CSA we have a senior management team made up of several women including our Head of Regulatory Standards & Compliance, Claire Aynsley, who is leading the way in driving best practice standards across the industry, and our Head of Learning & Development, Fiona Macaskill, who is at the cutting edge of new training and workforce development trends including reformed apprenticeships. We also have some fantastic women on our Board of non-executive directors including Yvonne Macdermid, Chief Executive of Money Advice Scotland, and many other inspirational females including Charley Taggart, who is General Counsel at Cabot Credit Management and a leading spokesperson on legal/regulatory issues, and Denise Crossley, CEO of Lantern UK who recently picked up an award at the recent Women in Credit Awards. Not forgetting of course, Sara De Tute, non-executive Director at Lowell Group, who very much led the way by becoming the first female President of the CSA from 2011–2014.

Our presence also extends beyond the CSA and I am proud to sit on Credit Strategy’s Women in Credit Steering Committee, the aim of which is to ensure that women in the industry are supported, recognised, celebrated, and given a platform to attract more women into roles where there are skills gaps.

The business case for greater gender diversity in credit and collections

There is a growing body of research from other sectors which links gender diversity to increased productivity, profitability, sustainability, and employee engagement/wellbeing. As employee development in the debt collection sector always sits top of the agenda for the industry, we will continue to look at ways to address some of the problems faced by staff, and greater gender diversity could provide a solution to some of these challenges.

The complexity of the collections process

The complex range of skills required to deliver good customer outcomes that both meet strict regulation and go above and beyond to build a positive reputation for debt collection firms, further strengthen the case for greater gender diversity – and diversity more generally – in the sector. We must be able to relate to the customers we are dealing with and engage with the wide range of stakeholders they come into contact with.

A more rounded and engaging industry can’t be created just from the ‘shop floor’- women need to have a voice in the boardroom to ensure a more balanced view is taken into account at the highest levels. That isn’t to say that women alone can run the industry, but the leadership certainly needs to be more balanced.

Innovative tech solutions for the future

Another factor to consider is the need for innovative technology solutions for the future of debt collection. Only by bringing together a diverse workforce that is representative of the customers it serves can we come up with the most fit for purpose solutions. While technology is important for efficiency, privacy and convenience, it must not be used at the expense of customer desire and demand.

Attracting more women into debt collection

Initiatives like the Women in Credit Awards are raising awareness and hopefully creating role models for young women. However, it is also important not to segregate them too much as many of the winners would of course been worthy winners of the gender-neutral version of their category and have indeed been worthy winners at other gender-neutral award ceremonies.

As an industry, we need to continue to be transparent about what we do and to dispel the myths that we so often see associated with our sector. By demonstrating some of the exciting and varied career options on offer we can show that this industry can offer so much more than what some might currently think.

Colleen Peel, Head of Marketing and Events, Credit Services Association (CSA)