On 13th June, Treasury Today and State Street Global Advisors came to Boston for the next instalment of their joint Women in Treasury initiative. The event took the form of an engaging and thought-provoking afternoon of discussion at the Four Seasons Hotel.
Opening the event, State Street Global Advisors and Sophie Jackson, Treasury Today’s Joint Publisher & Head of Strategic Content, explained the purpose of the Women in Treasury programme. Noting that smaller events can lead to richer conversations and more candour, the events are intended to help attendees make connections, share best practices across the industry and facilitate networking. It’s also about driving change, inviting participants to use the afternoon to glean actionable ideas.
Next came an inspirational panel discussion with Elena P LaFrance, Treasurer of Alkermes; Jamie Cortas, Director Global Investment Management at Dell, and Natasha Dayaramani, Managing Director, Global Head of Portfolio Strategy, Outsourced CIO at State Street Global Advisors. All three women have built highly successful careers within the industry, and offered participants a wealth of insights and advice on how to get ahead.
Elena talked candidly about the proactive approach she has taken to progress her career. She spoke of the value of applying for roles without necessarily having all the required qualifications, explaining how following this advice had led to her building a treasury department from the ground up – and, more recently, being named Treasury Today’s Woman of the Year in 2018. She also described how becoming a mother had led to a greater understanding of the need for work-life balance.
Jamie talked about the importance of having the right attitude alongside the necessary technical skills. She also discussed the need for cultivating strong relationships with everyone from colleagues and managers to banking partners and auditors. “These relationships – no matter what lens you look at them through – they matter,” she commented. “So you have to put in some effort. You never know when they’ll need you, or when you’ll need them.”
Focusing on diversity and inclusion, Natasha shared her insights on the importance of the language used in job descriptions. She explained that the firm has changed the way job descriptions are written and is using a tool to analyse and adjust the language used to attract a more diverse pool of applicants. Natasha also talked about unconscious bias, emphasising the need to put in place processes to check whether unconscious bias is affecting a particular conversation or decision.
After a short break, Sophie Jackson, Treasury Today’s Joint Publisher & Head of Strategic Content, invited participants to take part in a lively discussion inspired by the findings of the 2018 Women in Treasury Global Study, supported by State Street Global Advisors.
On the topic of flexible working arrangements, participants agreed that such arrangements can only really succeed if the workplace is genuinely supportive, so that people will be comfortable taking advantage of the opportunities on offer.
The conversation also explored the difficulties women may encounter when taking maternity leave. One attendee spoke positively of an initiative that enabled women to keep in touch with their workplace more effectively, noting that this had led to better retention after people returned to their roles. But conversely, other women spoke about their negative experiences of taking on too much work during their maternity leave.
The topic of board quotas likewise attracted a diverse range of views, with Sophie noting that 44% of the study’s respondents were in favour of quotas for female representation. Some attendees spoke about the drawbacks of quotas – including concerns that women may feel they need to work even harder to prove that they deserve their roles. But participants also voiced the idea that without an organic improvement in female representation, some sort of disruption would be needed. As one person commented, “You have to crowbar your way in.”
State Street Global Advisors has used its proxy voting power to pressure companies into improving female representation on their boards, with 423 companies adding a woman to their board since 2017 as a result. Participants were invited to share their action points arising from the event, with many saying they planned to support flexible working more wholeheartedly, review the language used in their own job descriptions or seek out mentees following the afternoon’s discussions.
Sculpture by Kristen Visbal, commissioned by State Street Global Advisors