Treasury Today Country Profiles in association with Citi

Diversity in dialogue: next steps at the Women in Treasury Asia Forum 2017

Women in Treasury Asia Forum 2017 panellists on stage

Treasury Today Asia’s latest Women in Treasury Forum in Singapore shone a spotlight on all the work that has been done to drive diversity for corporate finance professionals in the region. As our initiative broadens, practical advice on career development and on the direction the dialogue should take was at the centre of the debate.

As conversations around diversity in the workplace evolve, so too must Treasury Today Group’s Women in Treasury initiative. Now in its fifth year, our global initiative continues to gain momentum and has expanded to include a US installation of our Forum and is playing a pivotal role celebrating and promoting inclusion in the treasury space.

This was highlighted at our most recent Women in Treasury Asia Forum, last Thursday April 6th in Singapore, where conversation focused on the need for continued promotion of gender diversity in the workplace, whilst broadening the debate to highlight the business imperative to create an inclusive environment for all people.

The event, held at Singapore’s Four Seasons Hotel was attended by over 120 senior financial professionals, both male and female, from across the region and saw guests come together to network and learn from each other’s experiences. The highlight of the day was the all-star panel discussion featuring four leading industry speakers, all of whom are enjoying extraordinary careers.

This year’s panel included:

  • Felicia Foong, Regional Treasurer, Nestle

  • Bonnie Yang, Treasury Director, Alibaba

  • Manoj Dugar, Managing Director and Product Head for Core Cash, Asia Pacific Treasury Services, J.P. Morgan

  • Toni Weber, Group Finance Director, interTouch

Sophie Jackson, Associate Group Publisher at Treasury Today Asia, facilitated the dynamic and lively debate, which was defined by the open and honest views of the panel.

Memorable highlights

The panel session began with an interesting exploration of the panellists’ careers in corporate finance, the journeys they have taken and the experiences and challenges they have encountered along the way. Although each panellist had very different paths to their current role, one thing bound them all: they had all made bold moves at some stage, be that in changing role, industry, location or a combination of all three.

These decisions ranged from moving abroad to pursue new opportunities – including Toni Weber leaving London to audit aboriginal communities in Darwin, Australia; making it clear to their employers the direction in which they wanted their career to move in and remaining firm on this; to throwing themselves out of their comfort zone completely by taking on daunting tasks and roles that they were unfamiliar with.

For all of the panellists, these brave steps were not made in isolation and all cited having strong support from their mentors, organisations, friends or spouses and these being vital in helping them get to where they are today. The role that mentoring, either official or unofficial, has played in their career development reflected the responses to our 2016 Women in Treasury Global Study which highlighted that 99% of respondents believe that mentoring is either very important or important.

There was interesting debate around the types of mentoring that our panellists found to be the most productive, with structured mentoring programmes seen as being perhaps a little less effective than more organic arrangements. It was also interesting to note that the panellists felt that their experience of being a mentor had helped them learn more about themselves, claiming that mentoring arrangements should ultimately be a positive experience for both mentor and mentee.

Another dynamic topic was the discussion around mobility and the challenges associated with moving overseas to progress your career. At some stage, all those on the panel had moved overseas and they recognised this as being one of the most important decisions they had made, both professionally and personally. Despite their own positive experiences, they were acutely aware of the challenges associated with moving overseas and that whilst most young professionals will say they are mobile, the reality can sometimes be very different.

The shifting sands of our modern cultural landscape also emerged as central to the developing dialogue. The panel agreed that millennials are bringing a new way of thinking into businesses and disrupting traditional ways of working. The need therefore to build an inclusive workplace that welcomes people from different backgrounds, with different skillsets and experiences is now a must.

Creating such an environment is not easy though, and there are many obstacles that stand in the way. The panel cited the most challenging of these is the need to abolish myths around gender roles and even go beyond thinking about gender at all; hiring people based purely on their skillsets as race, gender and age become irrelevant. This is a future we cannot deliver just within the corporate finance industry but one which will require a great social and cultural shift, perhaps even a revolution.

An inspiring day

The purpose of Treasury Today Asia’s Women in Treasury initiative is to inspire and generate debate. This year the forum in Asia certainly achieved both of these objectives.

Commenting on the day Jennifer Leong, Treasury Director – Asia Pacific, Corporate Treasury at Cummins said: “The debate around diversity is starting to get more attention and forums such as this are a great avenue, especially for women, to get together and network, share experiences and learn to build up the treasury community and support the drive for greater diversity and inclusion in the corporate world.”

Hear more about the event...

A full write up on the day’s events will be featured in the May/June edition of Treasury Today Asia and photos from the day can be viewed online now.

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