On 18th September, Treasury Today and State Street Global Advisors returned to the Garden Court Hotel in Palo Alto, California for an intimate lunchtime roundtable event with a group of treasury professionals. This was the second joint event at this striking location, and a welcome opportunity for attendees – many of whom work in the technology industry – to discuss issues around diversity and inclusion while continuing to build a strong network.
Pia McCusker, Senior Managing Director and Global Head Cash Management at State Street Global Advisors, welcomed participants and began the event with a description of the Women in Treasury programme to date. As Pia explained, “Together we’re working to provide a forum to discuss the evolution of the diversity dialogue in our industry.”
Sophie Jackson, Treasury Today Group’s Joint Publisher & Head of Strategic Content, led an intimate panel discussion with three engaging and highly qualified experts: Anita Bubna, Senior Director, Treasury at Flex, and Treasury Today’s Highly Commended Woman of the Year in the 2019 Adam Smith Awards; Debdatta Banerjee, Senior Manager – Finance Systems at eBay (Payments) and Kevin Zimmerman, Vice President, Head of US Cash Direct Channel at State Street Global Advisors.
The panellists began by outlining the paths they had taken to reach their current roles. Anita explained how she had taken on many different roles in both technology and finance before she settled for a career in treasury which she has enjoyed for the last nine years. Of all her roles, Anita’s experience as an entrepreneur was particularly valuable and It helped her get comfortable with navigating uncertainty. It also taught her to persevere in the face of challenges. The skills learned early in her career served as a strong foundation for a wide variety of roles that she has taken on.
Debdatta related how a benchmarking exercise when she was at Microsoft had led to her being offered the role of Senior Treasury Manager at eBay – and how she recently moved into her current role, which has given her the opportunity to learn about payments and ecommerce. She also spoke about her positive relationship with her mentor at Microsoft, who she said has both championed her cause and encouraged her to step out of her comfort zone.
The conversation turned to the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace – and the role that male allies can play in overcoming the challenges faced by women. Kevin shared his thoughts on the steps that men can take to be effective allies, including the importance of being able to listen and receive feedback. The experts also spoke about the importance of broadening discussions on this topic to bring additional people – both men and women – into the conversation.
Questions raised by the audience sparked a discussion about challenges in the recruitment process and the steps that can be taken to ensure a diverse talent pipeline – from anonymising applications to rewriting job descriptions to avoid the overuse of keywords that might discourage female applicants from applying. On a related note, the experts spoke about the challenges that can arise when building a diverse workforce and the value of training to increase awareness of different personality types.
Following the panel discussion, Sophie gave a preview of the now-published results of the 2019 Women in Treasury Annual Global Study, with the data points providing a catalyst for attendees to share their own thoughts and experiences of the issues raised. There was widespread agreement that diversity can’t happen without inclusion, and that in order to be truly inclusive, a culture is needed where people will genuinely respect and welcome differing opinions. Participants also shared their experiences of navigating parental leave, from unwelcome comments about expressing breastmilk to the stigma fathers may face when taking leave.
Turning the spotlight to the topic of parity and representation, Sophie noted that support for quotas for female representation on boards has grown considerably in recent years. Participants spoke about the pros and cons of this approach and discussed other possible solutions, such as having programmes in place to identify and train women with a high potential to reach board level. Attendees also raised the important point that the criteria used for judging whether women are appropriate for board positions may be biased in the first place – meaning that the criteria themselves may need to be revisited.
In closing, Pia invited participants to share the ideas and messages they were planning to take away from the event. Many important points were raised, from changing perceptions about the value of board quotas to the value of transferable skills. Attendees left newly energised and inspired with ideas about how to further diversity and inclusion within their own organisations.