Diversity and Inclusion: Embracing Gender Equality in Treasury
Without question, the gender balance in treasury departments across the globe has improved in recent years, with more women working alongside their male counterparts, and taking up leadership roles. Nevertheless, as participants at HSBC’s Global Liquidity and Cash Management Women's Treasury Diversity and Inclusion Forum in Houston discovered, there is still much more progress to be made – by both genders.
Gone are the days when corporate treasury conferences were a ‘sea of men’ in grey suits. Today, more women than ever before are entering the profession. Senior female treasury staff and departmental heads are also growing in number, albeit from a relatively small base.
Despite these encouraging trends, gender equality efforts remain important for the future of women in treasury.
Women’s Treasury Diversity and Inclusion Forum attendees
Diane S. Reyes (Host)
Sharon R. Weise-Nesbeth
Taking a stand
What, then, can we do to advance gender equality, and build a more diverse treasury function?
This was one of the questions that Diane S. Reyes, Group General Manager, Head of Global Liquidity and Cash Management, HSBC, answered during the Women's Treasury Diversity and Inclusion Forum, drawing on the experiences that have seen her named as the ‘Fifth Most Powerful Woman in Banking’ .
“A great starting point is to learn how to be a better press agent for yourself,” she said. “Many employees assume that if they are delivering on objectives and achieving results, they will be recognised at work. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. We need to be vocal about our accomplishments and draw attention to our successes – just not in an arrogant manner,” Reyes explained.
One of the participants in the Forum agreed, saying: “No manager has the time to monitor everything an employee is doing and how certain actions have positively impacted the team or the business. But I only learned that the hard way, by working myself to the bone and still not being recognised for what I was doing. Eventually, I got so frustrated that I did point this out to my manager. Because there was no one else to be an advocate for me, I had to fulfil that role myself.”
Having confidence in yourself is integral when applying for a new role. Reyes once took it upon herself to find out why no women had applied for a vacancy. She approached several female staff who she believed should have put themselves forward and found that each of them had decided not to throw their hat into the ring because they felt they were underqualified. In reality, they met 70-80% of the job requirements. But they lacked the confidence to apply without being 100% qualified for the role.
Sadly, many treasury leaders still face difficulties recruiting, retaining and promoting women.
As well as having confidence in yourself, it's important to communicate career aspirations and life goals, the Forum participants believed. “All too often, managers will assume that employees with children do not want to be offered overseas posts, for example. But it may be that they are longing for international experience and can arrange to re-locate their family. We should not let managers make assumptions about us. You need to be clear by communicating your interests and ambitions,” said Reyes.
Another participant pointed out the importance of resilience. “It’s very rare that people – men or women – get the first job or project that they apply for,” she said, adding that, “I think it’s important that employees shouldn’t be deterred by failures first time round. One rejection should not close doors to future opportunities,” she advised.
Reyes agreed, adding that, “persistence pays off.” She also recommended asking for honest feedback on failed applications. “It might make others uncomfortable, but it’s the best way to learn and adapt in order to get ahead. Once you know what didn’t work, change your pitch to suit your audience and try again. You may succeed the next time“, she suggested.
A further tip Reyes shared was not to ruminate too much on decisions that didn’t go your way, or on incidents that frustrated you at work. “I used to spend several days or even weeks worrying about a disagreement at work. One day, I realised that hanging on to these negative feelings could actually hamper one’s performance.
“So, I came up with the 48-hour rule. Essentially, you allow yourself 48 hours to digest and reflect, and then put whatever it is in a box and let it go. This is a really useful technique to ensure that your emotions do not adversely impact your ability to deliver, and your future development,” she noted.