The importance of diversity and inclusion as a business case for change in the banking industry is gaining recognition, but it still has a long way to go. The finance sector is still male dominated, so how does this impact women who work in the industry?
This year’s annual SIBOS convention was held at the Excel Centre in London in September, and Treasury Today was delighted to take part in a discussion around diversity and inclusion in the finance sector. SIBOS TV caught up with Sophie Jackson, Joint Publisher and Head of Strategic Content at the Treasury Today Group, and leader of the Woman in Treasury initiative to explore the issue.
Tell us about the Women in Treasury initiative – what is it, and how does it work?
Women in Treasury was set up seven years ago. It began as a platform to celebrate women in our industry, starting with profiles of senior women in corporate finance. It incorporates a global study that we conduct every year, and now includes forums across the world, roundtables and conversations like we are having today. The conversation has really grown to talk about inclusion at all levels and diversity in all its forms.
Treasury Today has just completed the Women in Treasury Global Study 2019. Can you tell us a little bit about its findings?
This is our seventh year now and it’s a good moment to see what’s happened this year and compare it to the last year, and the previous years as well. Some of the big findings are that sadly 47% of our respondents from this year still feel that, in terms of pay parity they are not at the same level as their male colleagues at a similar level of seniority.
More encouragingly however, the majority feel that their companies are valuing and focusing on diversity and inclusion, but whether that’s resulting in real change is yet to be seen. When we look at top level representation, still only 8% of respondents have a female CEO while only 19% have a female CFO, so we are not really seeing these initiatives trickling upwards.
So in seven years these dominant trends that you’ve picked up on haven’t moved at all?
Well I think if we are being realistic about that, top level change will take a while. Those roles don’t become available very often, so we are not really looking at a host of new CEO roles that have become available in the last seven years. I think we need to look at the issue from the bottom, from when people are coming into organisations from the mid-level. So look at retention when people go on parental leave, and also giving access for men to parental leave as well, and in those areas we are seeing improvement.
But certainly pay parity is the ongoing elephant in the room?
Yes, but the issue is that with our respondents, their organisations may not have transparency on remuneration, so we don’t really know that it is true. The issue is a perception – there remains a perception for nearly half of our respondents that they are not valued as much as their male colleagues. What that really means in practice is perhaps that diversity and inclusion needs to be worked on. We need to have companies where everybody feels valued, where everybody feels that their voice is important.
From your perspective, what are the other areas that still raise concerns for you that require attention?
One of the things we have tried to do is not just acknowledge challenges but also give tools that can help women to get beyond them, so mentoring, sponsorship and coaching are absolutely critical. I think beyond that there seems to be an issue, which is more of a socialisation issue, that women are discouraged from putting their hands up I think societally, perhaps. So, this needs to be a journey that you go on both inside your organisation and within your career but also personally and thinking about how you might own some of your strengths and put them forward, so that’s something that I would like to see changed.
How do you think these can be changed, how do you think they can be addressed?
Well first of all it’s about asking for help when you need it. I think one of the things that we have tried to do is to understand what we really mean by mentoring, sponsorship and coaching. What are these tools that you can use and how might you go about getting them?
When we do our more intimate roundtable discussions, a lot of the time if people are in an organisation where there is not a structured development programme, it’s very hard for them to know where they can go and how they can get that help. So I would say the first thing that’s critical is being part of your community and being active. If your organisation is not helping you enough, go and get involved in your community, go and find networks like Women in Treasury, or whatever might be relevant to your profession and don’t be afraid to put your hand up and ask for help.
How do you think things are likely to develop over the next two to three years? What are your expectations?
You have to look backwards in order to look forwards. I think it’s amazing to see how far we have come in terms of talking about female representation. But what I hope to see happen going forward is that those women who are now in senior roles will think about their privilege and their access. What diversity and inclusion means in its truest form is that everybody has a seat at the table – not just women with a certain level of access. So I hope that we will now galvanise and make this about including everybody.
To find out more about the Women in Treasury initiative, please visit the Women in Treasury section of this website where you can find profiles, articles and information about the global forums.
Sophie shared her insights with Diane Reyes, Global Head of Liquidity and Cash Management at HSBC. Watch the full interview below.