Celebrating International Women’s Day: how Columbia Threadneedle Investments helps women be their best

Through our charitable partnerships, volunteering programmes and our corporate governance activity Columbia Threadneedle seeks to support women in our communities and beyond to become their best.  

Columbia Threadneedle actively votes by proxy at the general meetings of our investee companies, and target those with poor gender diversity on the board. This is most commonly done through withholding support from the chair of the nomination committee, responsible for appointing new directors. Our approach is designed to identify and escalate the matter with those companies that had failed to make progress in addressing gender talent balance.

During the course of 2018, we took voting action at 107 companies internationally where there was a low proportion of female directors.

HerCapital is a leadership programme run by Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) for young women who are currently undertaking an undergraduate degree. This year-long programme allows participants to develop their skills in a practical way to help them grow into confident leaders in whatever industry they decide to pursue. Columbia Threadneedle is delighted to be part of this initiative and actively mentor young women on this programme to help raise the next generation of confident female leaders that can start their careers with success.

Beth is mentored by Ebele, a member of our investment team.

“I am a 20 year old second year Accounting and Finance student at Swansea University. Originally, I come from Kenya but I have lived in the UK for 12 years. In my spare time I volunteer for my church leading discussions on various topics that young people care about.  I like to play badminton with my friends at University and I love trying out new recipes from all over the world.  

My goal in the next 5 years is to become a chartered accountant but my biggest aspiration is to start my own business; potentially start the first black owned accountancy firm in my local area. 

Ebele has been brilliant as a mentor so far.  Her friendly and easy-going attitude makes her approachable and easy to talk to. I have found it helpful to have someone more experienced in the financial industry to talk to; it has been nice to know her career journey and to appreciate that despite the setbacks when it comes to applications; it will be ok in the end just as long as I do not give up.  Additionally, by knowing her career journey, I'm able (to an extent) mentally prepare myself for the rewards and challenges that come with working in the financial industry such as the early mornings, finance exams, juggling social life and work life.

I'm embarking on an internship in technology solutions this summer in order to broaden my horizons. I am also placement searching so that I can work in within a finance-based job in the next academic year before doing my final year at University. If I am unable to get a placement, then I would like to potentially do Masters in Strategic Accounting or a graduate scheme.”


Columbia Threadneedle Foundation has been working with Access Sport since 2013. The charity gives people, especially from disadvantaged areas, access to a wide range of quality local sport, harnessing the power or sport to tackle exclusion, inactivity and obesity.

Access Sport’s innovative Women & Girls Programme uses cycling as a tool to give inactive women the opportunity to access the physical and wellbeing benefits of sport and learn a new skill. Their WoW Cycling initiative is a women-only community cycling group for those unable to ride a bike or lack the confidence to do so. Through empowering inspirational community volunteers, Access Sport engage with isolated women to help boost their confidence and create a friendly, supportive environment.

Riders reported increased levels of overall confidence that they could bring to other aspects of their lives.

  • 62% of the women were inactive before joining the group
  • 81% were from BAME backgrounds
  • 73% were not confident on a bike

The group helps tackle social isolation in local women, most of whom are mothers who didn’t grow up in the area. For many, the supportive and social aspect of the group is what keep them coming back. For some this is the only social time they get a week and the only opportunity to create new friendships outside their family.

Access Sport

“This is the most incredible, life-changing experience. To feel inspired …to feel included, to feel important and listened to.” 

In January 2019, our Foundation embarked on a three-year partnership with Clean Break, a charity and women’s theatre company set up in 1979. Over 40 years, Clean Break has been changing lives and changing minds on stage, in prison and in the community.

Women’s offending is frequently underpinned by a range of complex and gender-specific needs. For example, women prisoners are more likely to be struggling with domestic or sexual abuse, mental health and substance misuse. Women find it very hard to have these needs understood and met in the community, often leading to contact with the criminal justice system. In turn, this contact exacerbates the issues women are struggling with, such as housing and unemployment, and subsequently 48% reoffend within a year of release.

Clean Break seeks to change this. It helps women build the wellbeing, skills and opportunities to transform their lives and play a more integrated and active role in society. Through its theatre productions, Clean Break humanises and gives voice to women’s experiences in the criminal justice system: building understanding, and inspiring audiences to be part of positive change for women within our society.

Through a programme of theatre-based workshops and personal development, Clean Break helps its Members (women with experience of criminal justice) develop the performance and creative skills to participate in public-facing work, while building key skills, confidence, self-esteem and wellbeing. This is complemented by one-to-one support and referrals to specialist services to help women address issues linked with offending. The programme helps women re-build their own lives, while supporting wider change through raising awareness of the hidden experiences of women in the criminal justice system.

Columbia Threadneedle Foundation’s partnership with Clean Break will provide £90,000 over three years alongside further support through volunteering, pro bono assistance and advocacy. We look forward to working on “buddy” programme for employee volunteers.

  • Clean Break supports 70 women each year via the Members Programme, plus 100 serving women prisoners through prison residencies and workshops
  • Each year more than 70% of Members progress into education, employment and volunteering. By contrast, of women who joined the Members Programme last year 87% had been unemployed for two years or more, and 43% had no qualifications
  • Just 5% of Clean Break Members reoffend, saving £4.57 in public spending for every £1 invested in the charity
  • Of Members engaged last year 89% said they were more confident and 89% were more hopeful about the future
  • According to research, Members developed vital “timekeeping, teamwork, self-esteem and confidence, collaboration …[and]  study or vocation skills”
  • A growing body of evidence supports the transformative potential of arts-based interventions in the criminal justice system

Clean Break