Women in Treasury

Women in Treasury: the debate moves on

Published: Sep 2016
WiT panel discussion

Women and men must work together to conquer unconscious bias and to drive diversity. This was the clear message from our latest Women in Treasury Forum in London.

Last Thursday, over 180 senior financial professionals, both male and female, from Europe, the Americas and Asia gathered in London to celebrate and drive the conversation around diversity forward at the 2016 Treasury Today Women in Treasury Forum.

Now in its fourth year, Treasury Today’s Women in Treasury global initiative, comprised of an annual global study, profiles of senior female corporates and bankers, community social networks and forums held around the world, continues to receive an overwhelming response.

The event, held in Gibson Hall in the heart of the City of London, saw our guests come together to network, learn from each other’s experiences and hear from our expert panel of speakers, all of whom are experiencing extraordinary careers.

This year’s panel included:

  • Rana El-Hajjar, Treasurer, Qatargas.
  • Lucie Harwood, Head of Treasury and Investor Relations, Laird.
  • Ebru Pakcan, Head of Global Payments and Receivables, Treasury and Trade Solutions, Citi.
  • Julia Persson, Head of Cash Management, GTS, Large Corporates and Institutions, Swedbank.

Sophie Jackson, Associate Group Publisher, The Treasury Today Group, facilitated the dynamic and lively debate, which was defined by the open and honest views of the panel. The panellists offered many personal and thoughtful insights into diversity across the region, the progress that is being made and what more needs to be done.

No holds barred debate

The session kicked off with a very thoughtful discussion around how to best build a diverse team, something which the panel agreed transcended the gender debate. Indeed, race, region, socio-economic background, personality type and learning style were just a few of the other considerations that the panel said must be included to ensure that a truly diverse team is formed.

But how to get there? It was advised that diversity can best be encouraged in a number of ways. Firstly, business leaders must develop their own cultural competence, uncovering and reducing their own unconscious biases. From this base, inclusivity should be fostered through teams coming together and making sure that both the introverts and extroverts are given a voice and listened to. Other practical steps can also be taken. The panel, for instance, recommended that a diverse panel of candidates and interviewers is present when recruiting for new roles.

Next on the agenda was finding ‘male allies’, an increasingly important topic at our Forums which is seeking to involve more male voices in the discussion. The debate ebbed and flowed between the assessment of how the different individuals perform and behave in the workplace and women have historically not been valued as much as they should have been.

Unconscious bias was again a key component of the debate and removing it would seem to hold the key to progress. The panel agreed that bringing more men into the discussion could be one way to move the conversation and general progress forward. But one message was certainly clear; both men and women should make sure that they see men as allies and not saviours upon whom women are dependent for success.

Further solutions to removing the gender bias were offered in the next stage of the discussion. Here, some interesting geographical nuances were provided, especially around how the Nordic countries are leading the way in offering generous maternity leave, first-class state led child care, and equal opportunities. Indeed, it was highlighted how in countries such as Sweden, diversity issues are actively legislated on. The fact that Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark are the top five countries in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report seem to highlight the success of this approach.

For businesses this has some real practical implications. The panel highlighted how these measures helps drive parity in respect to the ‘risk’ of employees taking parental leave when hiring men or women, as both are equally involved in child care. What is more, gender pay gaps have to be reviewed and reported on reducing the risk of males being paid more than females – with our study highlighting that 29% of women believe that they are being payed less than their male counterparts perhaps other countries could take a lesson from the Nordic approach.

Lastly the debate was rounded off with a look at what the future might hold for gender diversity. Whereas once this might have drawn cynical and negative responses, it was encouraging to hear that broadly speaking the outlook is positive – although it is without doubt that there is more work to be done.

Indeed, some of the areas that were highlighted as needing to be addressed included widening the debate to move beyond the pay and opportunity gap trends and the focus on working mothers – something this forum has looked to do. The ‘old boys network’ also still exists and provides a significant block to the diversity agenda. But, perhaps most vitally, the panel highlighted how change is picking up pace with technology changing the workplace and the next generation of millennials, many of whom are more diversity conscious, beginning to make their mark.

Driving the debate forward

In the meantime, forums and initiatives such as ours will continue to be vital in progressing the debate. This point was highlighted by Kate Moorcroft, Deputy Group Treasurer at National Express who said, “the Women in Treasury initiative is very important, it gives women the confidence to believe in themselves when they see so many senior women in treasury and the networking provided by the event also gives an excellent opportunity to build lasting relationships with peers.”

Karen Toh, Treasurer at Grosvenor Group, agreed saying that: “The path towards greater diversity is a journey. It is great to have forums like this to increase awareness and to discuss how to engage with and get the buy in of the majority in order to move the debate forward.”

See you in New York…

The Treasury Today Group will be hosting its inaugural New York Women in Treasury Forum on 6th October 2016 at the InterContinental Barclay. Hear renowned industry leaders share their insights and personal experiences.

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