Debbie spoke of her career journey, beginning with her desire to become a doctor. She recalled graduating in the early 90s when there was a big downturn and a challenging jobs market. Debbie was initially cajoled into her role in treasury at Cisco by her manager – something she is now grateful for, as it has led to a rewarding career. She describes her career path as “one that has been defined by taking chances and moving to take on roles that I had never done before and by leadership that believed in me”.
Nancy has been based in New York for the majority of her career but her postings have included Hong Kong (with Chase Manhattan) and London (with HSBC). Her career has been defined by making decisions, such as changing company or location, based very much on what would work for everyone at home at a given point in time. “The challenge for me has been to understand and recognise when the time is right to make a major decision like relocating or changing company,” she says.
Christy followed up on Debbie’s comments by talking about the importance of “knowing when the time is right to move on”. These moments allow us to refresh and ‘to tap into our network’ she says, pointing to her own decision, after leaving Intellectual Ventures, to take some time out, meet lots of different, interesting people across her network, and generally recharge. Understanding what is most important at various stages of one’s career and being strategic in identifying and filling gaps in your professional portfolio is critical, she says.
The evolution of female representation in the financial industry was the next focus of discussion, with Debbie relating how, from her college days through to working in capital markets and European cash management, she saw changes in that representation. Working in predominantly male environments early in her career and then, later in Amsterdam, in a largely female environment, led Debbie to understand the importance of real diversity in representation, one that is not just limited to gender. The tokenism that she had encountered many years ago appears to have abated, Debbie feels, and she has begun to observe women truly moving up the ranks in the industry.
A debate about how best to encourage a culture of inclusion and what is meant when we speak of an inclusive environment followed. For Nancy an inclusive environment is one where everyone is welcome and where there is true representation, creating a perfect “recipe for businesses to do well”. While she has observed women coming up the ranks, she believes there is still a long way to go. Leaders are now under growing pressure to reach down and to pull up rising talent and that needs to be encouraged, even if it requires the use of quotas, she believes.
A live poll of the forum participants to gauge their support for the use of quotas for board representation revealed that roughly 70% of those present were in favour – far greater than the 44% of the Women in Treasury Annual Global Study 2018 respondents who also support quotas.
Pia then highlighted the importance of diversity of thought and getting different people, with different viewpoints, together in a room. In her current role, Pia has worked hard to bring some interesting new hires into her team and to really make sure that diverse opinions and backgrounds are represented.
Mentoring is being seen as an increasingly vital tool in the corporate workplace. Christy shared her experience about the benefits she herself has derived from acting as a mentor and how honoured she felt to have such a role. For many years she was a leader in Intellectual Venture’s Senior Women’s Mentoring Circle, comprising a diverse group of senior women who came together to help support each other to achieve their personal and professional goals. Nancy expanded on the theme by detailing how mentoring, sponsorship and coaching can come into play at various key moments during one’s career.
Question of balance
It is more important than ever in today’s fast-moving world to manage not just our careers but also our own personal development, ensuring a balance. Pia explained that the domestic set-up that has allowed her to be at her best professionally is to have a stay-at-home husband. She emphasised the importance of extracurricular activities for ensuring the pressures of work do not overwhelm. She is also a champion of parental leave and has worked to ensure that the people who work for her, both men and women, take up their entitlement in full.
Parity continues to be an issue to the respondents of the Women in Treasury Annual Global Study, with 39% of the 2018 respondents feeling they were not being paid the same as their male counterparts. Nancy was asked to share some implementable advice on negotiating, as this should be at least one route women can take to be paid what they are worth. She suggested those with a grievance over pay should do some research through various means to determine industry benchmarks and company expectations, followed by some tough but fact-based conversations with their managers about what they think they are actually worth. Christy amplified Nancy’s comments by sharing her own approach when negotiating. When asked what her own salary requirements were, she replied, “more is better!” A lesson for us all.
Outside of our professional communities is a wider community that we all belong to. The Women in Treasury initiative strongly supports and encourages all professionals from the industry to think about the ways in which they can be part of a broader community movement which helps everyone to thrive. Christy shared her experiences of serving on the board of FIRST Washington, a STEM and mentor-based organisation, and of the importance of finding opportunities to contribute and give back to our communities.
Pia’s final piece of advice was to be “real and authentic”, noting her own experience of being honest and human in front of her team at critical moments and seeing how powerful that can be.
The event ended on an emotive note, as the panellists spoke of the special and unique individuals who had most inspired them in their own journeys to where they are today. They included the story of one woman who went from segregated schooling to M.I.T and then to running a large corporation. What was noticeable in all four individuals who were highlighted as an inspiration by our panellists was their human traits of authenticity, kindness, determination and respect. What never fails to surprise at our discussions on career development is how important it is to be ourselves and to cultivate the best version of that as we advance up the ladder.