Women in Treasury

Women in Treasury Spotlight: Geeta Sharma, BlackRock

Published: Oct 2020

Having extensive experience in the finance sector, BlackRock’s Geeta Sharma, Director, USD Portfolio Manager, has seen the conversation around diversity, equity and inclusion change before her eyes. From learning to play golf, to working from home with a two-year-old, Geeta tackles challenges head-on – and encourages others to do the same.

What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing at the moment?

The biggest one at the moment is the urge to be online all the time. When you’re working from home, you feel like you have to be visible and accessible all the time, even though that’s not how we operate in the office.

The other challenge at the moment is building relationships. It can be hard to cultivate a new relationship without needing to connect for something specific. With everyone working from home and balancing so many pressures of their own, it’s hard to ask for more of their time and personal space.

What has been your experience of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and how have you seen the conversation around female representation evolve and expand over the course of your career?

When I started out in investment management about 20 years ago, it was a very different industry. It was really male-dominated and behaviours at times were unacceptable compared to how we operate today. I felt that I had to be like the rest in order to be included, and I found myself following areas of interest that my male colleagues had, just so that I could connect with them. I even have a set of golf clubs and I never thought that would be a sport that I would take up!

The conversation around female representation was also much more contrived. It was about giving lip service and filling quotas. Today though, it’s a much better environment for everyone. The majority of people truly understand the value of diversity. When I look around now, I see more men at women’s networking events, I see more female leaders generally, and I see more celebrations of achievements for both males and females across the industry.

What advice would you give to others looking to challenge bias and promote diversity in the workplace?

There are two main things. The first is that you can’t argue with facts. There’s a lot of people who are not motivated by beliefs, but rather money, performance and profitability. And there’s a whole world of evidence and hard statistics out there that tell us that diversity of thought and an inclusive culture leads to higher profitability and better outcomes for businesses.

Secondly, embrace your own authenticity. It’s really hard to promote diversity if you can’t embrace yourself, and honesty is really important in that. We look for inspiring leaders all the time in our personal and professional lives, and when those leaders speak out honestly about who they are, it can really inspire others to embrace their differences too.

But also, it’s important to do personal health checks on our self-awareness for things like our own unconscious bias and how we feel about things. It can really help to cement how we’re thinking and how we want to operate, and that can enable us to talk to people about the promotion of diversity in a more meaningful way.

What further changes do you hope to see in the future of the industry?

One thing that I’ve always wanted to see more of is flexible and remote working practices in this industry – not because a virus requires it, but because there’s a belief in it. Having talked to numerous male colleagues over the years, many of them have admitted that they’ve suffered from the guilt of missing appointments, assemblies and quality time with friends and family. They’ve said that the push from working mothers that has really taken the conversation about flexible and remote working forward has really helped them.

Additionally, flexible working can take away some of the potential barriers that stop people entering the industry. Remote working could help not just parents, but also people with disabilities who are challenged by commuting long distances but could do the job very effectively at home. I just think flexible working is better for bringing more talent into this industry.

What is your motto in life, or your greatest inspiration?

I don’t really have a saying or a motto, because I find inspiration from so many things and so many people.

But for things that keep me really motivated, the first is to embrace the challenge because it keeps you growing, and it enriches you. I always opt for the harder route because I learn more that way.

The second is to always celebrate your firsts of everything – personally and professionally. Every time you get that first win for something that you’ve been challenged by, celebrate it! It’s easy to get caught up in performance targets and business goals that sometimes feel very out of reach, so celebrating small wins can help remind yourself of the progress you’re making and motivate you to keep going.

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