Women in Treasury

Women in Treasury London Forum: A summary of the key findings

Published: Jan 2016
Women in Treasury London Forum panellists group photo

Although the progress towards gender equality can sometimes feel sluggish, the good news is that, across the globe, comprehensive campaigns and industry specific initiatives are raising awareness and inviting everyone to join the conversation on how to achieve gender equality. Over the past few years, significant progress has been made towards addressing legacies of inequality, with a loud and inspiring global push for diversity. Here, we take a closer look at the results of Treasury Today’s global Women in Treasury Study 2015, which presents milestones to celebrate, as well as reasons to keep up the momentum.

Whether new to the world of corporate treasury or a seasoned professional with many years’ experience, the challenges women face in the workplace are similar. This commonality provides the foundation from which a sense of unity can be built upon.

Speaking about the London Women in Treasury Forum in September last year, panellist Debra Todd, Vice President, Global Treasury Services, BP explained:

“Hearing from other women is just as interesting at my stage of the career as early on. I think there are so many common messages.

Certainly for me, I think it is really important that all those things that it has taken me so long to learn, I just want people to learn them a lot earlier.”

Whilst awareness of the importance of gender equality is on the rise, it isn’t quite there yet. Jennifer Tinsley, Treasury Director – Treasury Eurasia at Joy Global, a guest at the Women in Treasury Forum said: “We need to ensure that we continue to promote a greater mix of age and gender in the workplace and not replicate the status quo. This is how we generate new business and build a better economy.”

Indeed, Treasury Today’s Women in Treasury initiative aims to highlight the importance of having women integrated in the industry – at all levels of seniority.

“We are bringing together women to share their experiences, challenges, successes and failures, as an inspiration for all operating in this field,” says Angela Berry, Group Publisher, Treasury Today Group.

Opening doors

Central to the Women in Treasury initiative is the annual global Women in Treasury Study. Going from strength to strength as it enters its third year, the 2015 study attracted over 300 responses from women around the world. Just over half of all those who participated have been in a corporate treasury role for more than ten years – although for most, treasury was not their first role.

Despite this, there are a solid number of women with aspirations to reach FD and/or CFO levels, 9% and 17% respectively. With 82% also having access to training and development opportunities within their company, these percentages are only going to rise.

Top tips given by the study respondents highlight the importance of career progression, including:

  • “Anything is possible. Stop looking for barriers, look for opportunities.”
  • “We must give the best of ourselves, demonstrate that we can work together with men and not see them as competition. There are new opportunities that warrant recognising that we do not know everything – but we can learn.”
  • “Find a sponsor and start advertising yourself much more than you would naturally do.”
  • “Get a good mentor early on so there is more balance towards guidance rather than learning from one’s own mistakes. Have a good idea of where you are going and have a plan how to get there; there should be flexibility in the plan to take advantage of opportunities as they come up and to make adjustments as you learn and progress. Most importantly, stay true to yourself.”

One piece of advice that is frequently articulated is the importance of getting a mentor. It was once again received positively in the study, with 86% agreeing that mentoring is beneficial in helping the advancement of careers. In terms of helping the cause, 58% would be interested in being a mentor to others.

Only 9% responded that they would not be interested, and the remaining 33% responded maybe. There is an implication that the benefits of mentoring could increasingly be felt in the future as the process becomes more commonplace. Sixty five percent of respondents did not have a mentor during their own career development and yet it is continually referred to as a springboard for success. At the Women in Treasury Forum 2015 in London, panellist Jennifer Boussuge, Head of Global Transaction Services, EMEA at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said “you’d be surprised how willing senior women are to mentor. Don’t sit and wait for it to happen.”

More than qualified

Against this backdrop, it is pertinent to celebrate the success and determination of women in the world of treasury. Seventy seven percent of respondents are professionally qualified, 59% speak a foreign language and 68% would be willing to move to a different region or country to progress their career. What’s more, 71% envisage finishing their career within a corporate treasury environment.

There is also recognition of a number of other key skills that are important for roles in finance and corporate treasury – interpersonal skills, financial analysis, the ability to multi-task and influencing skills, for instance.

“You need to be an excellent communicator and be able to articulate complicated concepts to a non-financial audience. You also need to be good at building relationships both internally, in order to get buy-in for your strategy, and externally, in order to get what you need from banks and advisers,” one respondent commented.

Given that 67% of respondents didn’t believe their career path at their current employer is mapped out for them, embracing a wide range of skills beyond professional qualifications is bound to be advantageous.

It isn’t, of course, all about what employees can bring to a company.

Businesses have a responsibility for the working environment created too – and the factors ranked the most important for career enhancement were:

  • Job satisfaction.
  • Great treasury team.
  • Competitive salary.
  • Being accepted by senior management.
  • Being treated equally.
  • Career path in treasury.
  • Access to the board.

Playing the right game

Having more women in senior roles might also promote female-friendly hospitality events across the sector. This year, for the first time, the study assessed how these events can often encourage gender exclusion and – unsurprisingly – the topic triggered some lively response. Forty two percent reported that hospitality events are more centred towards their male colleagues, 37% disagreed and 21% weren’t sure.

The fact that events are often sports-related was mentioned frequently, with one respondent commenting that it’s hard to argue that it’s anything other than stereotyping on the part of the host when females aren’t invited to events such as rugby. Given that attempts to balance out often swing to the opposite extreme by holding female-only events, the advice would be to develop a broader hospitality programme and encourage events with mixed appeal.

A kind reminder

It is easy to concentrate on how much legwork is yet to be done to achieve gender equality – 33% of respondents believe they are paid less than their male counterparts and 45% do not feel their career prospects are the same as male colleagues, for instance – but the study serves another purpose.

It is a reminder that progress hasn’t stalled and there are many developments to celebrate. For instance, undoubtedly a huge part of job satisfaction is achieving a desirable work/life balance and 2015 saw a dramatic increase in the number of flexible working arrangements.

In 2014, only 44% of respondents reported having the opportunity for flexible working arrangements but by 2015 it had shot up to 62%. This sharp increase would suggest recognition that employees don’t always fit into neat boxes, and therefore an approach that appreciates the value of flexibility is on the rise. Such changes are undoubtedly welcomed by the industry’s women and men.

We look forward to seeing you at the Women in Treasury Forum in London on 15th September to discuss how further triumphs can be realised.

A growing number of women are finding their voices and inspiring others to achieve progress – you can be one of them. If you are interested in attending our Women in Treasury Asia Forum on Thursday 14th April 2016 at The South Beach, Singapore please contact our Global Head of Events, Lisa Bigley, lisa.bigley@treasurytoday.com, telephone: +44 (0)13 0462 9016

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