On 13th September in London, record numbers of attendees from the worlds of corporate finance, technology and banking came together to celebrate women in treasury at the sixth annual Women in Treasury London Forum.
Plaisterers’ Hall in the City of London was host to the gathering as we came together to discuss the latest results of the eagerly anticipated Women in Treasury Annual Global Study proudly supported by State Street Global Advisors and to discuss, in real terms, the experiences of women in the treasury profession.
Over the six years that the Treasury Today Group has been running the Women in Treasury initiative, it has been astonishing to see how conversations around diversity have evolved. In a relatively short time, gender equality, diversity and inclusion have shifted from fringe topics to terms that are at the heart of daily corporate life.
What is equally important is that the focus of these conversations has also shifted beyond the topic of gender diversity to focus on a much broader range of issues. These conversations are helping to create a more holistic view of what it means to have a diverse corporate culture.
There are many drivers behind this evolution, perhaps most crucial is the correlation between diversity and improved business performance. As if further evidence was required, a recent 2018 Boston Consulting Group Study cites diversity in corporations as driving innovation and, critically, financial performance.
Diversity in action
The journey to equality is not all about numbers and hitting targets. Diversity is the by-product of an inclusive workplace, diversity is what you have and inclusion is how you act. An inclusive workplace is one that welcomes diversity by creating an environment where different kinds of people can thrive and succeed.
As conversations around diversity and inclusion in the workplace have evolved, so too has the Women in Treasury initiative itself. The ways in which companies can create an inclusive environment and the need for continued promotion of diversity in the workplace were just some of the topics discussed at the most recent Women in Treasury London Forum.
Now in its sixth year, our global initiative continues to gain momentum and is playing a pivotal role celebrating and promoting representation and inclusion in the corporate finance space. This was highlighted by the presence of over 180 senior financial professionals, both male and female, from across the UK and Europe, who came together to network and learn from each other’s experiences.
From data to dialogue
The week of the Women in Treasury London Forum was the first week that the data from the Women in Treasury Annual Global Study 2018 had been analysed and evaluated and the lucky attendees on the day were the first globally to hear the highlights from the upcoming report.
The day began with a networking session before an introduction from Sophie Jackson and Meg Coates, Joint Publishers, as they presented the background to the Women in Treasury initiative and shared some of the key highlights from the Women in Treasury Global Study 2018. The forum was the first time that the results had been publicly discussed, with the full report launching in October 2018. Here are some of the top-level highlights that were shared with the attendees:
The 2018 study profiled 348 women in corporate treasury. Nearly 57% of respondents in 2018 completed the study for the first time, meaning that this year’s responses reflect a new data-set with some eye-opening results.
The majority of respondents were aged between 35 and 54 and have been working in treasury for more than ten years.
Respondents are drawn from a vast array of industry sectors and are located across the world.
25% of respondents are earning over £150,000 per annum, excluding benefits.
Just over half of respondents do not have dependent children and 47% do. 17.3% have other dependents.
In a fantastic display of the power of interpretation, this year’s respondents outlined for the first time what the term diversity means to them. Amongst them were ‘different perspectives’, ‘equality’ and ‘acceptance of others, of different beliefs, religion, race, gender and political preference’. It means working together to enhance the workplace, to understand and learn from each other.
34% of respondents’ organisations have changed their approach to flexible working in the last 12-18 months, demonstrating its ongoing and ever-increasing importance. 69% of respondents say that where such arrangements exist they are available to all, regardless of gender. However 35% note that there is not equal uptake amongst both genders.
Regarding parental leave, encouragingly just over 29% of respondents notice significant numbers of men taking up their parental leave, however almost the same amount do not notice any men taking up the opportunity. 41% state that although some men take up the opportunity it is a minority of those who are eligible.
Just under 80% describe their company’s approach to diversity and inclusion as favourable or very favourable, which is fantastic as a first step towards attaining better representation and equality.
Board representation unsurprisingly yields slightly less encouraging results. Only 17% of respondents are working for companies with a diverse board in terms of age, gender and ethnicity. 4.6% of companies have a female CEO and 24.6% have a female CFO.
Diversity, inclusion and equal opportunities are recognised as key performance indicators (KPIs) at 24% of respondents’ companies.
Respondents rated different criteria in order of importance for driving forward a diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity agenda. The top scored were as follows:
Leadership engagement and training.
Agenda is led by a C-suite executive.
Leaders are held accountable for such agendas and KPIs.
Transparency on remuneration.
For the first time in the study’s history, support for quotas for women on boards has dramatically overtaken opposition to their use, with 44% in favour, 32% against and 24% unsure. 28% support a quota for ethnic diversity on boards and 44% do not, with 28% unsure.
39% of respondents did not feel they were paid the same as their male colleagues at a similar level of seniority and 32% feel they are.
37% of respondents have felt excluded from networking events, with the main reasons for this cited as gender, events being targeted at men, and age.
79% believe that mentoring/sponsorship/coaching are key to a successful career and there are many interesting viewpoints on the various merits of the three.
38% of respondents have moved overseas with their job and 50% believe that has helped advance their career journey. 52% would be willing to move overseas to advance their careers.
Following the introductory speeches and presentation of the data highlights, our guests went through for lunch and were then treated to an all-star panel discussion featuring five leading industry speakers, all of whom are enjoying extraordinary careers.
This year’s panel included:
Séverine Le Blévennec, Director of EMEA Treasury, Honeywell
Helen Hanby, ACMA, AMCT, Director, International Treasury, Biogen
Royston Da Costa, Assistant Group Treasurer, Ferguson Plc
Barbara Patow, Global Head of Correspondent Banking, Global Banking & Markets, HSBC
Yeng Butler, Senior Managing Director and Global Head of Cash Business, State Street Global Advisors
Sophie Jackson, facilitated the dynamic and lively debate, which was characterised by the open and honest views of the panel.
Journeys to the top
The panel session began with an exploration of the panellists’ careers in corporate finance, the journeys they have each taken as well as the opportunities and challenges they have encountered along the way. Barbara Patow shared her journey to her current role as Global Head of Correspondent Banking from a background in risk and compliance, with some enlightening years spent working in anti-money laundering. Séverine Le Blévennec shared the gems of her decision to move to Honeywell after many loyal years working at General Motors, explaining, “it was a real opportunity for me and I have never regretted it. At Honeywell, I have been able to be proud of what I have achieved and what I have built.”
Royston da Costa described his beginnings in banking which have led to an esteemed 28-year career in treasury and spoke of his motivations in becoming a male ambassador for inclusion in the industry. Yeng Butler of State Street Global Advisors shared her very unique professional path working in finance and going back to graduate school and then working in the NGO sector, with a stint in micro-financing female-led businesses in Samoa before coming to State Street Global Advisors and climbing the ranks to her current role. Overall, although each panellist had followed very different paths to their current roles, one thing bound them all: they had all made bold changes at some stage, be that changing role, industry, location or a combination of all three.
Our panelists highlighted the stand-out moments that accelerated their paths to the top, with Helen Hanby speaking of her location moves at different moments and how that had affected her career journey. Said Helen, “For me, the really pivotal moment was accepting the expat assignment to Germany. I was the first female manager the company had ever had. I think they wondered what on earth had walked in, but it turned out to be an amazing couple of years, and absolutely shaped the next 20 years of my career, and actually my life. For me, it’s about seizing those opportunities.”
Séverine then talked about her career defining and ongoing appetite to learn which had enabled her to get ahead in her industry. Stepping outside of our defined job descriptions and really focusing on feeding our intellectual curiosity and seeing what we can learn that can bring new value to our work.
What is interesting in our panellists’ accounts is that these brave steps were not taken alone. Support from mentors, organisations, friends or spouses was crucial in helping them make their decisions.
Yeng explained her decision in one instance to make a big career move which was precipitated by a conversation with her mentor who asked her two questions, “Number one; are you fully challenged in the role that you have today? Two, do you feel like you are utilising everything you have learned in the various experiences that you’ve had? That was when I moved back to the north east to take the State Street role. If I think back to his impact and the questions that he asked, he didn’t have the answers but he knew the questions to ask. That is something that I strive for with the mentees that I have today. Because it isn’t about arriving at an answer per se, it’s about the journey.” Indeed, the role that mentoring, either official or unofficial, has played in our panellists’ career development reflected the responses to our Women in Treasury Global Study 2018, with 79% of respondents stating that mentoring was key to professional development.
The next generation
Of the future of work and what we are aiming for, Helen said, “I think it’s a really exciting time for people to be entering the workplace, and it’s absolutely critical that we have a generationally diverse workforce in place. In a time of such flux and market disruption, I think that a generationally diverse workforce is absolutely best placed to deal with that.”
And on his hopes for the future, Royston shared the following, “I want equality to be based not on gender, ethnicity or any other aspect of diversity and that nothing should be impossible for anyone in the workplace. Those opportunities should be available for everyone. As my 19-year old daughter said, ‘a safer workplace in terms of being able to work, based on what you know and not who you are”.
What is clear is that businesses will need to change. The whole panel agreed that millennials are bringing a new way of thinking into businesses and disrupting traditional ways of working. The need therefore to build an inclusive workplace that welcomes people from different backgrounds, with different skillsets and experiences, is now a must. The discussion moved to the future and to giving back. Women in Treasury is a community that encourages collaboration and support and so it was heartening to hear the work that our panellists are doing in this space. Barbara explained, “It’s incumbent on me as a leader to educate the next generation to ensure that they can, and they know, they have the capability to do whatever they want to do.” One way she has sought to do so is by going in to speak with high school girls about career development, as she puts it: “They are a very tough audience! On a regular basis I go into sixth form colleges and state schools generally to give them an education into what they can do, to explain my journey coming from a working-class background and doing the job that I’m doing today.”
More to come
We would like to thank all those women and men who took part in, attended and supported our Women in Treasury London Forum and would like to invite all of you in the industry who are interested in our initiative to get involved!
There are numerous ways you can do this, including attending our global forums, taking part in the Women in Treasury Global Study 2019, nominating yourself or a team member in the Adam Smith Awards Woman of the Year category when we open for submissions in January 2019 or by joining our dedicated Women in Treasury network on LinkedIn.
For any general enquiries regarding the Women in Treasury initiative please contact our Head of Circulation, Sarah Arter, Treasury Today Group – firstname.lastname@example.org
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