Women in Treasury

International Women’s Day

Published: Mar 2021

March 8th was International Women’s Day. This year’s theme was Choose to Challenge. This galvanising phrase is designed to spark a will to provoke change through challenge. In the 2021 fight for gender equality it is vital that we elicit the support and engagement of allies of all genders. As the organisation behind International Women’s Day explains, ‘A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world. From challenge comes change, so let’s all choose to challenge.’

Lots of arms in a circle

What is the path for all those seeking more than mere performative allyship? For those who seek to challenge the status quo and wish to promote positive change in their organisations, teams, industries and societies? What is International Women’s Day and why is it important to have a date in our calendars in which we mark and celebrate a group in society, in this case women?

Every year on March 8th, International Women’s Day is recognised the world over. Its origins appear to lie in the early 20th century, originating from within socialism, namely within the Socialist Party of America and the International Socialist Women’s Conference. On February 28th 1909 there was a National Women’s Day in New York City organised by the Socialist Party of America. Then, in 1910, a special day was proposed at the International Socialist Women’s Conference. The conference endorsed the idea of a day each year which would be an international day of concerted action to protest for female suffrage. Then, starting in 1911, the day was celebrated across much of the Austro-Hungarian Empire on March 19th.

International Women’s Day serves as a marker for women’s suffrage across the world. All the while the fight for equality in terms of access, pay and representation is ongoing, International Women’s Day serves as a moment of unity for global efforts and visibility for the ongoing struggle. It is a moment for education, enlistment and reckoning.

Treasury Today Group has long been committed to the fight for gender equality in corporate finance and beyond. Our Women in Treasury initiative works daily to offer a platform for women in the industry and a space to both educate and celebrate allies to the cause. Everybody has a role to play in ending gender discrimination in our industry and our platform is inclusive with a role and a voice for all.

International Women’s Day for us is therefore a great moment for reflection. A time to assess the progress that has been made, to look at the learnings that have come from the push for gender equality. As this struggle has expanded to include diversity and inclusion in all its forms, what are some of the key learning experiences that we can take from the conversations we’ve been having around gender equality and apply to issues such as racial equity, LGBTQ+ inclusion and so on? Gender is the most visible and the most easily discussed of differences and so can be a gateway to conversations around other pervasive and pernicious forms of discrimination which occur in society and in our industry.

International Women’s Day this year also marked the rather grim milestone of one year since the start of the world’s lockdown orders and pandemic victims. As vaccination programmes roll out slowly but surely across the world, we can also take this opportunity to assess the large impact that the pandemic is unfortunately having on progress in gender equality.

There were many reports over the course of 2020 which highlighted the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women and, certainly in the US, particularly black and Hispanic women (https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/covid-19-and-gender-equality-countering-the-regressive-effects). The pandemic has shone a light on the existing inequalities of our societies and has cruelly had the greatest impact upon the most vulnerable amongst us. Conversations which we believed had progressed around women’s roles at home and gender equality have been stripped bare by the disproportionate burden of domestic roles which seem to be falling upon women. The pandemic seems destined to make 1950s housewives of us all, as the long-term impact of increased domestic responsibilities and financial uncertainty upon women’s progression in the workplace is yet to be seen. We know that the first step to overcoming barriers to women’s progress is to acknowledge their existence. It is one of the reasons that our Women in Treasury Global Study data forms the heart of our dialogues around gender equality each year.

This year on International Women’s Day, Treasury Today Group was delighted to partner with Kyriba to host a digital event to mark the day. The event included a very special guest line up featuring a fireside chat with India Gary-Martin, Leadership for Executives (https://www.leadershipforexecs.com), Danette Le, Vice President and Assistant Treasurer of Hosthotels, Mary Wienclaw, Senior Manager of Foreign Exchange and Forecast Management at Baxter International and Dory Malouf, Senior Principal Value Engineer at Kyriba.

This was a moment to reflect on the progress that we have seen and the ongoing setbacks to female equality. The Women in Treasury Global Study data allows us to chart the progress seen in the industry. Without this data set we have no way of documenting the trials and tribulations, challenges and achievements of the gender equality agenda.

Our latest data set demonstrated some cause for celebration, with particular steps forward made somewhat obviously over the course of 2020 in flexibility and remote working. This is, of course, an area that has been entirely transformed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The changes in this space in 2020 may well have altered the landscape of how and where we work forever.

In terms of quotas for female representation and ethnic diversity at board level, which is one of the key markers that we at the Treasury Today Group have been monitoring over the past decade, 47% of the 2020 respondents support a quota for female representation on boards. 38% of our respondents support a quota for ethnic diversity. Support for a quota for female representation on boards has increased year on year since the start of our Women in Treasury Global Study to this current level.

When it comes to gender parity, there is also improvement in this space. However, 35% of our 2020 respondents still felt they were paid less than their male counterparts. This is down on 47% in 2019. Other areas showing an ongoing need for attention included exclusion at social events. As we celebrate successes in gender equality it is important that we are aware of the privileges and powers that our respondents possess, as we seek to remove the barriers to progress for all those who face discrimination in the workplace. One of the items on the agenda for our conversation on March 8th was practical tips and support for women who are negotiating pay, as we know that historical discrepancies can end up following women throughout their careers. There are, however, some tools that can be employed to great avail in order for women to be recompensed at the same levels as their male counterparts. As rallying cries for transparency on pay remuneration grow across the world we also offered some guidance for male allies who may be well placed to share information and support their female counterparts in order to rebalance historic inequity.

For the first time in 2020, 17% of respondents in 2020 were male and we are grateful to all those who completed last year’s study, set against a backdrop of a global pandemic and immense economic uncertainty for countries across the world. As mentioned earlier, the platforms that International Women’s Day and the Women in Treasury initiative have created need allies of all genders to support and inform industry conversations. International Women’s Day is a time for us all to come together to challenge the status quo and to be agents of positive change in our organisations. We welcome everybody to get more involved, not just once a year, but every day with our work around gender equality in corporate finance. If you are interested in learning more or getting involved with Women in Treasury please don’t hesitate to reach out to wit@treasurytoday.com

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