Women in Treasury

Women in Treasury Asia Forum: here to stay

Published: Jan 2016

Women in Treasury Singapore Forum 2015 panellist group photo

Although the progress towards gender equality can sometimes feel sluggish, the good news is that, across the globe, comprehensive campaigns and industry specific initiatives are raising awareness and inviting everyone to join the conversation on how to achieve gender equality. Over the past few years, significant progress has been taken towards addressing legacies of inequality, with a loud and inspiring global push for diversity. Here, we take a closer look at the results of Treasury Today Group’s annual global Women in Treasury Study 2015, supported by RBS, which presents milestones to celebrate, as well as reasons to keep up the momentum.

Whether new to the world of corporate treasury or a seasoned professional with many years experience, the challenges women face in the workplace are similar. This commonality provides the foundation from which a sense of unity can be built upon. Speaking about the Women in Treasury Forum held in Singapore last March, Marie Tyndall, Regional Treasury Manager for Johnson & Johnson, said: “By coming to an event like this, you can take reassurance from the fact that you’re not on your own. By seeing inspirational leaders speaking about shared concerns for women working in treasury or finance, greater confidence can be built as we all experience very similar issues.”

Treasury Today Group’s Women in Treasury initiative aims to highlight the importance of having women integrated in the industry – at all levels of seniority. “We are bringing together women to share their experiences, challenges, successes and failures, as an inspiration for all operating in this field,” says Angela Berry, Group Publisher, Treasury Today Group.

Opening doors

Central to the Women in Treasury initiative is the annual global Women in Treasury Study. Going from strength to strength, as it enters its third year, the 2015 study attracted over 300 responses from women around the world. Just over half of all those who participated have been in a corporate treasury role for more than ten years – although for most treasury was not their first role.

Despite this, there are a solid number of women with aspirations to reach FD and/or CFO levels, 9% and 17% respectively. With 82% also having access to training and development opportunities within their company, these percentages are only going to rise. Top tips given by the study respondents highlight the importance of career progression, including:

  • “Anything is possible. Stop looking for barriers, look for opportunities.”

  • “We must give the best of ourselves, demonstrate that we can work together with men and not see them as competition. There are new opportunities that warrant recognising that we do not know everything – but we can learn.”

  • “Find a sponsor and start advertising yourself much more than you would naturally do.”

  • “Get a good mentor early on so there is more balance towards guidance rather than learning from one’s own mistakes. Have a good idea of where you are going and have a plan how to get there; there should be flexibility in the plan to take advantage of opportunities as they come up and to make adjustments as you learn and progress. Most importantly, stay true to yourself.”

One piece of advice that is frequently articulated is the importance of getting a mentor. It was once again received positively in the study with 86% agreeing that mentoring is beneficial in helping the advancement of careers. In terms of helping the cause, 58% would be interested in being a mentor to others. Only 9% responded that they would not be interested, and the remaining 33% responded maybe. There is the implication that the benefits of mentoring could increasingly be felt in the future as the process becomes more commonplace. Sixty five percent of respondents did not have a mentor during their own career development, but it is continually referred to as a springboard for success. At the 2015 Women in Treasury Forum in Singapore, panellist Sonia Clifton-Bligh, Director of Johnson & Johnson’s Regional Treasury Service Centre, Asia Pacific, explained that “coaching and mentoring the skills from a diverse team is definitely a success factor for the organisation.”

More than qualified

Against this backdrop, it is pertinent to celebrate the success and determination of women in the world of treasury. Seventy seven percent are professionally qualified, 59% speak a foreign language and 68% would be willing to move to a different region or country to progress their career. What’s more, 71% envisage finishing their career within a corporate treasury environment.

There is also recognition of a number of other key skills that are important for roles in finance and corporate treasury – interpersonal skills, financial analysis, the ability to multi-task and influencing skills, for instance. “You need to be an excellent communicator and be able to articulate complicated concepts to a non-financial audience. You also need to be good at building relationships both internally, in order to get buy-in for your strategy, and externally, in order to get what you need from banks and advisers,” one respondent commented. Given that 67% of respondents don’t believe their career path at their current employer is mapped out for them, embracing a wide range of skills beyond professional qualifications is bound to be advantageous.

It isn’t, of course, all about what employees can bring to a company. Businesses have a responsibility for the working environment created too – and the factors ranked as the most important for career enhancement were:

  1. Job satisfaction.

  2. Great treasury team.

  3. Competitive salary.

  4. Being accepted by senior management.

  5. Being treated equally.

  6. Career path in treasury.

  7. Access to the board.

Playing the right game

Having more women in senior roles might also promote female-friendly hospitality events across the sector. This year, for the first time, the study assessed how these events can often encourage gender exclusion and – unsurprisingly – the topic triggered some lively response. Forty two percent reported that hospitality events are more centred towards their male colleagues, 37% disagreed but 21% weren’t sure.

In 2014, only 44% of respondents reported having the opportunity for flexible working arrangements but by 2015 it had shot up to 62%.

The fact that events are often sports-related was mentioned frequently, with one respondent commenting that it’s hard to argue that it’s anything other than stereotyping on the part of the host when females aren’t invited to events such as rugby matches. Given that the search for balance often goes to the opposite extreme and holding female-only events, the advice would be to develop a broader hospitality programme and encourage events with mixed appeal.

A kind reminder

It is easy to concentrate on how much legwork is yet to be done to achieve gender equality – 33% of respondents believe they are paid less than their male counterparts and 45% do not feel their career prospects are the same as male colleagues, for instance – but the study serves another purpose. It is a reminder that progress hasn’t stalled and there are many developments to celebrate. For instance, undoubtedly a huge part of job satisfaction is achieving a desirable work/life balance and 2015 saw a dramatic increase in the number of flexible working arrangements.

In 2014, only 44% of respondents reported having the opportunity for flexible working arrangements but by 2015 it had shot up to 62%. This sharp increase would suggest recognition that employees don’t always fit into neat boxes and therefore an approach that appreciates the value of flexibility is required is on the rise. Such changes are undoubtedly welcomed by the industry’s women and men. We look forward to seeing you at the Women in Treasury Asia Forum in Singapore on 14th April to discuss how further triumphs can be realised.

A growing number of women are finding their voices and inspiring others to achieve progress – you can be one of them. If you are interested in attending our Women in Treasury Asia Forum on Thursday 14th April 2016 at The South Beach, Singapore please contact our Global Head of Events, Lisa Bigley, lisa.bigley@treasurytoday.com, telephone: +44 (0)13 0462 9016

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