Among these was a panel discussion, Driving Value Through Diversity: Women in Treasury, which was moderated by Sophie Jackson, Publisher and Head of Strategic Content at the Treasury Today Group. Sophie opened the discussion with an overview of Treasury Today Group’s Women in Treasury programme. “Over the course of the last eight years, we’ve spoken with many women across the world,” she said. “But today we’re opening this up to everybody – all genders have a role to play in this conversation.”
As Sophie noted, there is a strong business case for diversity and inclusion in the world today. Recent research illustrates that diverse companies perform the best: a 2018 report by McKinsey & Company showed that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity at board level are 21% more likely to report above average profitability.
It’s clear that businesses have much to gain by furthering diversity and inclusion within the workforce – and the panellists discussed what that means in practice. Yang Xu, VP & Global Treasurer at Kraft Heinz, said she has aimed to build a diverse team over the course of her career. “Some of my team are strategic thinkers; some are very detail-oriented; some are inclined to socialising and interacting with people, and some are very system and process oriented,” she said. “I think together we are a winning team.”
Amy Cochran, CFO & Enterprise Value at Accenture, said that in her role she actively works with talent and HR to make sure that women are being recruited and promoted within the workplace. “Diversity matters, and you have to be vocal about it,” she said. “How do you get your performance to improve? Do you need mentoring? There’s a lot that can happen.”
Focusing on the steps that individuals can take to further their own careers, Maritza Gerde, Assistant Treasurer at Genesys, advised that women should ask themselves how they want their careers to develop and how they can achieve that – “Don’t wait for somebody to come and give that to you.” Noting that some people are less vocal than others about their interests, she also encouraged people to go back to their teams and have conversations with people – both men and women – about what they want to achieve.
Leveraging global talent
The panel also spoke about the importance of cultural diversity. Maritza said treasury is a unique opportunity to touch almost every aspect of finance, as well as some other areas of the business. She said she enjoys the international element of her career, noting that diversity and inclusion isn’t only about gender – “it’s also in different cultures that you look at.” She added, “There’s different talent out there – there are different people that have different ways of viewing things that could really help your team.”
Christian Kochan, Vice President, Assistant Treasurer at PVH Corporation, said that working overseas had opened his eyes to what other people can bring to the table. “As leaders in some of these groups, we don’t have to be the smartest people in the room,” he said. “We’re only strengthened by the folks that we have around us.”
Amy also spoke about the role that employee resource groups can play in furthering inclusion and diversity, emphasising the importance of having leadership support and a strategic plan. She explained that the company has subcommittees across areas such as LGBTQ, the generation gap, disability and gender. “We asked them to do charters, commit to a plan, tell us what they needed to be successful,” she said. “Is it working better than it was a couple of years ago? Absolutely – but it takes a voice; it takes leadership; it takes action.”
Maritza added that a workplace may be diverse on paper – but without a plan for supporting diversity and inclusion, it can feel less diverse than it really is. “I fully agree with leadership needing to have a plan and putting together a task force or group of people to have that plan actually push down through the company,” she said.
Words of wisdom
Finally, Sophie asked the panellists what advice they would give the audience in terms of getting involved in inclusion and diversity. The panel offered a wealth of suggestions, from seeking resources from HR to including the team in decision making. Noting the challenges brought by family commitments, they also emphasised the importance of offering flexible working arrangements, as well as encouraging male colleagues to take paternity leave and normalising flexible working.
In closing, Sophie noted the role that language can play in furthering diversity. “It’s interesting to me how often language presumes that somebody in a senior role is male,” she said. “We need to start speaking about these roles in a different way, so that other people can imagine themselves in them.”