March 8th is a special date in the calendar. Not only is it International Women’s Day – it is also the anniversary of the unveiling of the iconic Fearless Girl sculpture by Kristen Visbal, commissioned by State Street Global Advisors, which was recently installed in her new home outside the New York Stock Exchange. This year, March 8th also saw Treasury Today and State Street Global Advisors return to Convene above New York’s Times Square for their latest Women in Treasury event – exactly one year after their first joint roundtable in the same location.
Introducing the event, Yeng Butler, Senior Managing Director and Global Head of Cash Business of State Street Global Advisors, explained how a desire to be more data-driven about the core issues affecting women professionals had led to State Street Global Advisors partnering with Treasury Today to support their annual Women in Treasury Global Study. “Our goal this year is to define the way forward,” she added, explaining that a new format would include implementable guidance that attendees could put into practice.
Yeng was joined by Pia McCusker, Senior Managing Director and Global Head of Cash Management and Dominica Ribeiro, Head of Institutional Marketing, North America, for a discussion focusing on corporate culture and why it matters. Pia shared her experiences since being asked to lead State Street Global Advisors’ portfolio management team, explaining how she had implemented major changes to achieve a more diverse team, with colleagues responding enthusiastically to the new working environment.
There was also an insightful debate about the challenges that can arise when attempting to “retrofit” the ideal corporate culture into an already established group of people, as well as the importance of corporate culture when it comes to attracting and retaining talent.
Next up was an exclusive coaching workshop led by Louise Watts, Director of HPC Global and Founder of Transition Hub. Concentrating on the topic of ‘executive presence’, Louise encouraged guests to consider how they are perceived today, how they would like to be perceived by others and how they could achieve that change.
Explaining that first impressions are established within ten seconds of appearing in front of a person or a group, Louise provided invaluable practical direction, guiding participants through exercises such as achieving a powerful stance, carrying yourself with confidence and having control over how others perceive you. The workshop, which was enthusiastically received by all, concluded with a powerful message: “Grant yourself permission to be the person you want to be.”
The final session saw Sophie Jackson, Treasury Today’s Joint Publisher & Head of Strategic Content, presenting some key insights from the 2018 Women in Treasury Global Study, while inviting some lively discussions amongst the guest treasurers and other finance professionals. Attendees shared their thoughts about the importance of gender equality, with many expressing the wish to effect positive change for the benefit of their children. Attention was also paid to the importance of diversity and inclusion, with guests noting that different experiences and different ways of thinking can make teams stronger – but that companies also need a culture that allows diverse people to feel part of the organisation.
The topic of parental leave likewise sparked some interesting discussion among guests. While 30% of the 2018 Women in Treasury Global Study’s respondents had noticed significant numbers of men taking up the option of parental leave, 41% said this was only accessed by a minority – and 29% hadn’t noticed any men taking up the opportunity. Participants discussed why encouraging men to take parental leave was an important element of furthering gender equality, while noting possible obstacles, such as perceived stigma and the impact on discretionary bonuses.
Turning to female representation at different levels, Sophie noted that while most respondents worked in teams that were more than 30% female, only 24% had a female CFO – and a mere 5% had a female CEO. This corresponded with the proportion of female CEOs on the Fortune 500, which fell below 25 in 2018. Sophie commented that since Treasury Today’s first Women in Treasury Global Study six years ago, the idea of quotas for female representation on boards had overtaken opposition, with 44% now supporting the idea.
Finally, guests were invited to pose for a photo with one of the original renderings of the Fearless Girl statue – marking the end of a thought-provoking and dynamic event. Guests departed with plenty of inspiration and action points to take back to their own organisations.
Sculpture by Kristen Visbal, commissioned by State Street Global Advisors