Women in Treasury

Women in Treasury Asia Forum: Study results

Published: Jul 2014

More than 130 attendees gathered at Raffles Hotel in Singapore on 8th May 2014 for Treasury Today’s inaugural Women in Treasury Asia Forum. The lively and thought provoking event began with a networking reception during which an introduction to the Women in Treasury initiative and highlights of the Women in Treasury Study were presented by Angela Berry, Publisher, Treasury Today and Sophie Jackson, Associate Publisher, Treasury Today Asia.

This was followed by the lunch during which an ‘all-star’ panel discussion took place with four highly respected women from the treasury industry. The speakers were:

  • Meena Dafesh, Director of Treasury, Asia Pacific and MEA, Ingram Micro
  • Jeanette Chang, Treasurer, Asia Pacific, IBM
  • Dianne Challenor, Head of Transaction Services, Asia Pacific, J.P. Morgan
  • Anne Collard, Global Head of Corporate Product Management, ANZ

During the debate, four key topics highlighted by the study formed the themes for a lively and dynamic panel discussion. This was followed by a question and answer session, with challenging and interesting views raised from the audience. The topics were:

  1. Job satisfaction.
  2. Equality.
  3. Mentoring.
  4. Vive la différence.

Although each panellist certainly had their own personal views on these topics and on how women can add value to the treasury profession, there were several extremely noteworthy pieces of advice upon which all the panellists agreed. First and foremost, that women (and indeed men) must be forthcoming to get what they really want from their career. Whether they need greater support to be their best at work; require a mentor to help with their development; or they want to be considered for a promotion or a pay rise; treasury professionals should not be afraid to ask for what they want or need – they should not expect their manager to be a mind reader, or that opportunities will be presented to them on a plate.

Finding a sponsor within your organisation, someone to suggest you for a responsibility or project, someone to champion you in meetings, was another useful tip to emerge from the panel session. Aside from sponsors, role models are also extremely important in career development – be they men or women, within the organisation or external.

Other key takeaways from the discussion included the need for all of us to be aware of our unconscious bias. We all are susceptible to unconscious bias and as individuals we need to put these aside when hiring or promoting – this should not just concern gender diversity, but all forms of diversity from age to race.

Interestingly, despite the significant amount of unconscious bias that exists in the industry, the panel largely agreed that quotas are not the answer to getting more senior women into the treasury profession. The consensus was that organisations can do more to encourage female treasury practitioners to think long-term about their careers and mentoring was cited as a key enabler here. Similarly, the panel felt that women should try to more consciously self-promote: often women are reluctant to talk positively about their own achievements or feel that they are not qualified enough for senior positions. Men, on the other hand, are generally better at self-promotion and self-belief, which can see them moving up the career ladder ahead of female candidates. As Patricia Lim, GTS Product Head Cash Asia, International Banking, RBS noted after the event: “if you believe in yourself, everything is possible.”

Breaking down barriers

There is a still a need to remove the stigma associated with flexible working arrangements for both genders, the panel believed. This not only means educating managers on the benefits of remote working, for example, but also working to break down cultural barriers and perceptions. Often, employees feel they are made to feel guilty for taking time off work to look after their family. Similarly, there is often little done for women who are returning to work from a HR point of view. Organisations should offer guidance around how to re-adjust to being a working mother and guidance as to how to take your career forward, the panel felt.

But time outside the office shouldn’t just be about family. As Lauren Oakes from Goldman Sachs who was in the audience commented: “the term work-life balance seems to have become synonymous with marriage and children and we need to change that. Everyone deserves to have an enriching life outside of the office and an opportunity to pursue their interests. For me, it is often when I am doing something completely unrelated to work that I am able to solve the most complex and challenging work related issues. Having time to reflect is critical.”

Positive and progressive

The overall messages from the panel were extremely positive and highlighted the need for diversity in the treasury profession. Abed Islam from BNP Paribas, one of a number of men who also attended the event commented: “I was pleased to hear the panel members’ perspectives on how women these days are increasingly capable of striking the right work-life balance, while simultaneously focusing on career progression and leading by example.”

Nevertheless, there is still a great need for initiatives supporting women in the treasury profession. As Oakes noted: “There is an African proverb that says “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. If we want to change some of the structural issues, namely having more women in the most senior positions, we will have to ‘go together’ and that everyone must play a part. These types of initiatives are a great starting point as they bring awareness to the challenges women face and also inspire others to get more involved with mentoring and sponsoring junior women within their organisations.

We would like to thank all those who took part in, attended and supported our inaugural Women in Treasury Asia Forum and would like to invite all other women and men in the industry who are interested or intrigued by the initiative to take part in our future events. The 2014 Women in Treasury Study, which is supported by RBS, is also now open. This aims to build up a global picture of the profiles and careers of women from junior roles to Group Treasurer/Financial Director/CFO positions.

This year’s inaugural Adam Smith Awards Asia are now open for nominations until 12th September 2014 and we are delighted to announce the category of ‘Woman of the Year’ as part of the awards. This award is open to any woman operating in the corporate treasury environment in the Asia Pacific region who can demonstrate real achievement and is an inspiration to others. Do you know someone like this? Someone who is a role model to others? Or is this you? Have you overcome real adversity? Have you had a career changing experience? Can you demonstrate real innovation? What have you achieved professionally and personally? Why do you stand out? Nominate yourself or another woman who inspires you.

Treasury Today Women in Treasury

Launched at the beginning of 2013, Treasury Today’s Women in Treasury initiative recognises the importance of women in the corporate treasury profession and creates a means for women in treasury to communicate with one another; learn from each other and network in order to help each other.

Whilst the treasury profession remains largely male-dominated, there are remarkable women enjoying remarkable careers. The Women in Treasury initiative recognises female innovators in the corporate treasury profession.

Women need to be much more visible in their roles, both inside and outside of their organisation. While women are notoriously bad at promoting themselves, this initiative aims to help bridge the gap. We frequently profile female trendsetters in Treasury Today Asia. Each article looks at professional development and career-defining moments, as well as providing advice to those just starting out in the profession. We also host a Women in Treasury LinkedIn group – to join this group email sarah.arter@treasurytoday.com

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