Insight & Analysis

Women in Treasury Study 2020 findings: raising the bar

Published: Oct 2020

Despite the disruption brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, progress is evident in the quest for gender equality in treasury – but there is still room for improvement, finds the eighth edition of Treasury Today’s annual Women in Treasury Global Study, sponsored by State Street Global Advisors.

Rising the bar

The eighth edition of Treasury Today’s annual Women in Treasury Global Study once again provides an invaluable snapshot of the progress being made on the path to gender equality, despite the disruption brought by the COVID-19 pandemic during the surveying period.

For the first time, this year’s study sought responses from both women and men. In total, 235 people took part in the study, which was conducted between March and July 2020 – an impressive response, given the impact of the crisis during this period. Almost 60% of respondents were completing the study for the first time.

The study gauged the views of treasury professionals across EMEA (49%), the Americas (32%), Asia Pacific (16%) and the rest of the world (3%), with a wide range of industry sectors represented. Fifty-seven percent of respondents had spent more than ten years working in corporate treasury, and the same percentage were earning annual salaries of over £100k, giving an indication of respondents’ seniority and experience. Forty-three percent were aged between 45 and 54.

As Kim Hochfeld, Senior Managing Director, Global Head of Cash Business at State Street Global Advisors noted, the diversity of responses “provides us with the opportunity to assess both the challenges and opportunities that women are facing across the industry at all levels.”

Improvements and challenges

Where diversity and inclusion are concerned, this year’s results showed some signs of improvement compared to the past two years. Given the arrival of COVID-19, it is no surprise that flexible working arrangements have become more widespread, with 89% of respondents’ organisations offering this at the time the study was conducted. And now that this has been achieved, the shift towards flexible working may be here to stay: as one participant commented, “I believe when we do eventually return to [the] office we will see much more flexible work policies and more equitable use of them and no negative perception.”

Flexible working is not the only area where progress is evident. Encouragingly, 81% of respondents deemed their companies’ attitudes to diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity as extremely favourable or favourable. And while 35% of women do not believe they are paid the same as male colleagues at an equal level of seniority, this is considerably less than the 47% recorded in 2019.

That said, it’s clear that female treasury professionals continue to face a number of challenges in the workplace. Over half of respondents said they felt excluded from networking opportunities and/or social events because of their gender. And the research revealed the wide range of other factors that can also result in exclusion, including age (28%), parental responsibilities (27%) and ethnicity (18%). As one participant commented, “There are sometimes events that are targeted for couples, and I am not a couple.”

Glass ceiling

Where female representation on boards is concerned, only 5% of respondents said their CEO was a woman, down from 8% last year. But more encouragingly, 19% of respondents said their companies had a female CFO.

Mentoring, sponsorship and coaching can all play an important role in career advancement, with three quarters of respondents stating that these are key to a successful career. However, not all organisations are equal when it comes to offering access to structured programmes: 68% of those polled said they had sought a mentor, sponsor or coach themselves, compared to 32% who had had one allocated by their companies.

Meanwhile, the study shows that support for quotas for female representation on boards remains steady: 47% of those surveyed this year said they were in favour of quotas, up from 46% last year, while 29% were opposed. In addition, 38% of the 2020 respondents were in favour of quotas for ethnic diversity at board level, up from 34% in 2019. Some of the study’s comments captured the arguments both for and against the use of quotas: “I don’t believe in quotas, as they can lead to someone being placed on the board without merit,” commented one respondent. But others argued that without a quota, representation will not improve.

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