Women in Treasury

Standing up for diversity and inclusion

Published: Nov 2019

Thursday 12th September marked Treasury Today’s biggest Women in Treasury London Forum to date, with over 200 female and male delegates from the worlds of corporate finance, technology and banking attending the Women in Treasury London Forum at Plaisterers’ Hall.

Results from the 2019 Women in Treasury Annual Global Study, in association with State Street Global Advisors, were shared for the first time and the key themes explored throughout the day included diversity and inclusion, discrimination, overcoming challenges and making male allies. The panel of senior treasury professionals were eager to share their experiences in these areas, and offer their advice to others in the Q&A session afterwards.

Women in Treasury London Forum 2019

The event also heralded the arrival of the new dedicated Women in Treasury (WiT) community platform, Within. This gives our readership a bi-monthly newsletter, with resources including ‘How To’ videos and ‘Ask an Expert’ features. The platform has been designed to equip women with essential tools and guidance for combatting the challenges many face in their professional lives. Within will roll out into a full-scale online hub for the global community in 2020.

As the latest step in our WiT initiative, Within aims to continue the discussion on diversity, inclusion and representation in corporate treasury, the past seven years of WiT having demonstrated a real shift in how important these discussions are. The powerful social movements promoting women’s rights have brought the challenges faced by women in the workplace into the spotlight, and this is unlikely to change anytime soon.

Diversity and inclusion

Meanwhile, the WiT initiative is broadening its focus beyond gender diversity to include issues such as ethnic diversity and the availability of flexible working and parental leave for men. These topics have now become part of a broader conversation around corporate social responsibility (CSR) and environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. Many companies across the globe are now striving for a more caring and responsible relationship with employees and the communities in which they operate.

The initiative is also drawing attention to the significant difference between the concepts of inclusion and diversity. As one of our panellists, Pia McCusker, Senior Managing Director and Global Head of Cash Management, State Street Global Advisors, put it, “To me, diversity means having different perspectives, different outlooks and different ideas. Inclusion is having a safe environment to allow for those different outlooks.”

Key findings

Women in Treasury London Forum 2019

Some of the key highlights from the 2019 study were shared with the attendees at this year’s Women in Treasury London Forum, and this was the first time the results had been publicly discussed.

  • The majority of the 335 respondents were aged between 35 and 54 and over half had been in a treasury role for over ten years.
  • 53% have dependent children and 17% have other dependents.
  • Over 80% of companies now offer employees flexible working arrangements.
  • 47% said they feel that they earn less than their male counterparts.
  • Only 7% said there had been recent changes in pay parity within their organisation.
  • 36% have felt overlooked and ignored in the workplace because of their gender.
  • 75% have felt overlooked and ignored in the workplace because of their age.
  • 46% of respondents are in favour of quotas for female representation on boards.
  • 34% of respondents are in favour of quotas for ethnic diversity on boards.
  • 8% have female CEOs, compared to 5% last year.
  • 80% do not have a diverse board leading the company.

The ensuing discussion aimed to unpick some of these findings. This year’s panel, moderated by Sophie Jackson, Joint Publisher & Head of Strategic Content at Treasury Today Group, consisted of:

  • Hailey Laverty – Group Treasurer, InterContinental Hotels Group plc (IHG).
  • Joseph Peka – Deputy Treasury, URENCO.
  • Joanne Bates – International Treasurer, Worldpay, Inc.
  • Nadya Hijazi – Managing Director & Global Head of Global Liquidity and Cash Management Digital, HSBC.
  • Pia McCusker – Senior Managing Director and Global Head of Cash Management, State Street Global Advisors.


What do the terms ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ mean to you? Answers from our Women in Treasury Global Study 2019

“Diversity is when groups reflect a range of backgrounds. Inclusion is when everyone has an invitation to participate.”

“Diversity means that your company represents the globe, not just one demographic. Inclusion means that you feel as if you are treated as a work colleague, not as the box you tick on a survey.”

“When you have different groups, you have diversity. When you integrate these different groups, you have inclusion.”

“It means that not only do you have a seat at the table but a voice. It’s more than race, religion and ethnicity. Diversity of thought, which is a by-product of all of those things, is what brings value to an organisation.”

Journeys to the top

“I love my job and I love treasury, and I’m so glad I stumbled across it when I did.” Like many, Joanne Bates never set out with the intention of working in treasury. Her journey began when she was studying to become an accountant and her second placement was in treasury. Fast forward a few years and, aged just 26, she became Deputy Treasurer at a subsidiary, later joining Worldpay where she was promoted to the role of Treasurer three years ago.

Women in Treasury London Forum 2019

Like Joanne, Hailey Laverty also came from an accountancy background. She joined Deloitte as part of the auditing team before moving to Rolls-Royce in accounting, and then transferring to the treasury team. Three years ago she moved to IHG where she became Group Treasurer. She likes the fact that with treasury she has been able to gain more of an appreciation for what’s going on in the wider markets and that the role has an economic focus.

The journey for Pia McCusker began with her mother setting her on her path by moving to the US. “Her inspiration and her independent streak is something that I love,” says Pia. She later worked at a summer internship at a bank where she cites the support and encouragement of her female senior manager as the reason she began to enjoy being in finance. Eventually Pia worked as an Assistant Budget Director whilst studying at graduate school, before starting at State Street Global Markets as a Structured Product Analyst. She later switched to State Street Global Advisors as a Credit Analyst before working her way up to her current role.

The cultural challenges faced by Nadya Hijazi growing up in UAE meant that despite having studied law in the UK, she struggled to find work as a solicitor in her home country. She was forced to accept a role in a bank that employed just ten women. She overcame considerable hurdles to be taken seriously as a professional working female, eventually moving back to the UK in the early 2000s, realising “there wasn’t just a glass ceiling for me to break through, there was a brick wall.” She encountered even more obstacles from her decision to pursue digital technology as it was thought by everyone in the industry that it wouldn’t ever take off.


Nadya emphasises the internal challenges of women, noting that “we tend to associate what we’re doing today with what our ability is.” Employers, she argues, often have an inability “to distinguish between potential and performance” where women are concerned.

A question in the later session summarised this: “As a female you have to show that you are capable of your next progressive move before they will put you into these positions, but as a male, typically you will be put into these positions before you’ve actually represented yourself within those roles.”

Women in Treasury London Forum 2019

Nadya also feels that women tend to be very hard on themselves and have a self-limiting belief, refusing to put themselves forward for jobs that they don’t believe they have the entire skillset for. “Women have something in our psychology where we like to be secure and we don’t like to fail,” states Nadya. Her advice? “Volunteer for projects outside of your comfort zone. You learn a new topic, you network and meet new people, and the more you do it, the more confident you get.”

When Hailey left Deloitte – and her largely female team – the culture shock was the biggest challenge. Joining an all-male team at her next company, her first thought was, “It’s a good job I like football.” Early on in her career, she had always thought that every company would have the same attitude as Deloitte: that if you work hard, people will notice and you’ll get promoted. She credits Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, for teaching her that it is not that simple, and by highlighting the behavioural differences between women and men it has helped her to actively support her teams better.

After being promoted, Pia also noticed a lack of gender and ethnic diversity within her team. Over time, she was able to restructure the team and hire new talent from outside the organisation. She stated that while promoting within an organisation encourages employee loyalty, it can also entrench existing views and attitudes. By introducing new staff, Pia was able to garner fresh insights and ideas which spurred interesting discussions.

Alongside this, Pia makes an active effort to have a “team huddle” on a weekly basis, to ensure that everyone’s opinions are able to be heard. She has found that by doing this it creates a more open, collaborative, and inclusive working environment.

Joanne found a personal challenge for her was constantly being misjudged by others in the industry. “Underestimate me at your peril!” she joked. Whilst it was 20 years ago that she entered a meeting with a CFO and was asked if she took shorthand, it has only been four years since she was Deputy Treasurer and mistaken for a PA. The biggest challenge, in her opinion, is fighting unconscious bias.

Joanne believes that the key to doing this is by making sure that people are aware of their unconscious biases – as well as by encouraging forums like Women in Treasury that raise awareness and support discussion of these issues.

Mentoring and sponsorship

When it comes to mentoring and sponsorship, Nadya has found that it can be quite rare to find women who are willing to act as sponsors. Senior female leaders tend to be less open to sponsorship than men, in her experience. “What I would say to people in this room is, ‘Don’t be that woman!’” she encouraged.

Hailey has ensured she is involved with internal networking groups, set up under the ‘Lean In’ framework. “As one of the most senior women in our office, I feel that there is a responsibility to contribute to those networks,” she stated.

Joanne agreed that networking is the best way to find mentors and sponsors, and events like the Women in Treasury Forum are a great place to do this. She recommended that if women come across someone that they have a good rapport with – in their own organisations or elsewhere – then they should work to keep those relationships active.

Women in Treasury London Forum 2019

She believes that unofficial mentors are just as good as official ones, and that you don’t need to have an official scheme in your workplace to get a mentor or sponsor. “The important thing is to take control of your career,” she said. “Don’t wait until your company has an official programme. Go and find someone that you’re inspired by and ask them to do it, because most people are really interested in helping others.”

Joanne added that it may only be necessary to meet once per quarter in order to make a difference. She also recognised the benefits of having a sponsor as they can create opportunities for you and advocate for you, which is essential for moving up in a company.

Like Hailey, Joanne goes out of her way to encourage staff to ask questions so she can offer advice where she can. She noted that sometimes having a mentor outside of the organisation can be better, as they can offer advice without having to think about what is best for the company.

Nadya noted the importance of selecting the right mentor for a specific problem, and also recommended that women seeking a mentor carry out LinkedIn searches for keywords based on the type of people they want, while focussing on what they are aiming to get out of the relationship in advance.

Making male allies

Joe Peka, as a male ally and our male panellist, spoke about recognising the importance of having men involved with movements like WiT. “Being involved in this type of event is about leadership, it’s about demonstrating that you care about high performance, and how high performance has got nothing to do with gender,” he stated.

Sophie Jackson added that “the importance of stepping out of your organisations, being part of a network and sharing your experiences, really can’t be underestimated.” She suggested that in order to get more men on board, the movement needs to become clearer about why men need to be involved, and what they can do.

Final advice

In offering some parting wisdom, Pia said the biggest lesson she had learnt in her career was to “be bold and stand up for what you believe in.” If you know in your gut that you’re making the right decision, you need to fight for it, she added.

On a purely practical level, Nadya recommended paying attention to how many women are scribbling notes during meetings, versus how many men. She noted that by sitting and listening as so many men do, women may be better able to engage in the meeting – whereas studiously writing notes risks missing out on being involved in the discussion. Sophie added to this, “Own your presence. Walk into that meeting and own your space.”

On the topic of facing challenges, Hailey recognised that “at the time it might be really tough, but once you’ve got through it and can look back, you can realise how much you learnt from it.” Joanne recommended that everyone go out and research unconscious bias in order to learn what the traps are and how to avoid them. Finally, on the topic of advice for male allies, Joe’s tip for men wanting to help was that “being visible in that support is better than waiting to develop expertise” in diversity and inclusion.

Getting involved

We’d like to offer a final thank you to all who took part in, attended, and supported our Women in Treasury London Forum, and encourage anyone who is interested to get involved.

There are a number of ways you can do this, including attending our global forums, taking part in the 2020 Women in Treasury Global Study, joining our dedicated WiT network on LinkedIn, or by nominating yourself or a team member in the Adam Smith Awards Woman of the Year category when submissions open on 31st January 2020.

For enquiries regarding the Women in Treasury initiative, or to receive a full copy of our 2019 study results, please contact Lisa Bigley, Global Head of Events, Treasury Today Group – lisa.bigley@treasurytoday.com

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