For the last two years, Treasury Today and State Street Global Advisors have held a variety of joint Women in Treasury events in a number of cities and continents. On 6th June it was time to bring the initiative to Chicago, with an afternoon of insightful learning and vibrant discussion at the Ritz-Carlton hotel.
Christine Stokes, Managing Director at State Street Global Advisors and Director of Client Services for the Global Cash Business, began the event with an update on the progress the firm has already made in driving diversity and inclusion. Following talks with over 1,200 companies about the importance of including women on their boards, she noted that 423 have already added a woman to their boards – an encouraging result.
Turning to the theme of the day, Christine also talked about the role that mentorship can play in helping women shape their careers, explaining that she has personally participated in the firm’s mentor programme “both as mentor and mentee”.
The value of a successful mentoring relationship was then explored in detail with an intimate panel discussion with Mary Gilbert, MAFM Senior Accounting Manager at Duracell and Kimberly Bethke, Director and Treasurer at CHPPOA. Kimberly recounted how she had been tasked with hiring a new finance division following Berkshire Hathaway’s acquisition of Duracell in 2016. She explained how recruiting Mary as Treasury Manager had marked the beginning of a close relationship that has continued even after Kimberly left the company in 2017.
Mary described how open communication between the two has included honest feedback and heart-to-heart discussions. She also said that her mentor’s guidance was “instrumental” when she decided to make the move from treasury to accounting last year, in a role which involves managing her own team. “Kimberly may not have realised how valuable her advice has been to me,” Mary said. “It’s been very poignant in every decision I’ve made as a manager.”
The two women also offered plenty of valuable advice about how to initiate and develop a successful mentoring relationship, underlining the importance of having each other’s best interests at heart – and how this leads to some tough conversations. As Kimberly said, “If I don’t talk to her about something that I see is creating a roadblock for her, I’m not giving her the value that I should as a mentor. So we do have those conversations, but we have them in a caring and respectful way.”
Next came a presentation of the findings of the 2018 Women in Treasury Global Study by Sophie Jackson, Treasury Today’s Joint Publisher & Head of Strategic Content. On a positive note, 76% of respondents said that their companies now have a strategy for diversity and inclusion – but more concerningly, 39% felt they were not paid the same as their male counterparts. Continuing the focus on mentoring, Sophie said that 79% of the survey’s respondents saw mentoring, sponsorship and coaching as critical for career development.
The discussion sparked some interesting insights from attendees. Several women commented that while they had never had a female manager themselves, the picture has evolved in recent years as more female treasury professionals had come up through the ranks. Many spoke of the need to provide strong female role models for their daughters. Attendees also talked about the importance of both diversity and inclusion, with one noting that “diversity without inclusion doesn’t really go anywhere”.
The discussion turned to the importance of flexible working arrangements, with some participants sharing strategies that had proved effective for their organisations. One company had created a rota system allowing all staff to work remotely one day a week, while maintaining coverage in the office. Attendees talked about the importance of offering flexibility equally, regardless of people’s circumstances. They also noted the additional technology resources that may be needed to facilitate people in working from home.
Finally, Christine spoke compellingly about the power of change and making change, noting that “we all have a voice within our organisation.” Participants were then invited to share what they had taken away from the event and how they might implement changes, either in their organisations or in themselves. Their answers revealed a range of energising action points, from formalising mentoring relationships to leading by example with the adoption of flexible working.
Sculpture by Kristen Visbal, commissioned by State Street Global Advisors