Article

Women In Finance and Banking

Women In Finance and Banking

WORK180
WORK180May 28, 2020

The Wolf of Wall Street is long gone and these days women can thrive and build successful careers in finance, including while they may be raising families. It also extends beyond traditional banking or insurance, and careers in finance can be made in many different industries.

We spoke to eight women from our Endorsed Employers who are smashing it in finance roles about what their companies are doing to support their careers, practical advice they would give to other women, and –most personally– the advice they’d give to their younger self about what is to come. If you’re in finance, or considering moving into the industry, then read on for tips and insider views!

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Claire Guess, Assistant Credit Manager - Airliquide

1. How have your company’s policies and initiatives supported your career?

Since I joined Air Liquide I have been on 2 Direct Debit courses, this process was new to me before I started my role here. I requested the training and it was supported by the business. I try to work from home on occasion and Airliquide allows this in order to encourage a flexible approach and a better work/home life balance.

Air Liquide offers a “Read My Mind” initiative which supports employees with mental health issues. Ambassadors across the business volunteer to support colleagues who may be suffering, and it's encouraging to know all employees have the support there if needed.

2. What practical advice would you give to other women aiming for a senior role in the industry?

Boost your confidence and show your employer you are dedicated by taking up a professional qualification to support your role, for example I studied for my CICM qualification online in the evenings. It can be difficult to juggle work life, home life and studying but focus on the fact it is short term and your qualification will last forever subject to CPD points. Sign up to the relevant Institute to stay current and updated with the industry (including laws & practices) by attending various events, networking and receiving monthly magazines.

Looking back at your career so far, what advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t worry if you don’t find your path straight away when leaving school or college. I studied International Marketing at University and developed a career in finance over time, you have to have patience, as developing your career won't happen overnight. Believe in yourself and never feel like your opinion isn't valid. Stand by your opinions but also be prepared to listen to others and take onboard their point of view. Finally and most importantly is to never be averse to change.


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Antonia Kulakowski, Finance Business Partner - Freightliner

1. How have your company’s policies and initiatives supported your career?

I joined Freightliner on a finance placement scheme, this was the first I heard of the company and knew little about the industry. During the placement year I was given responsibilities that I thought were far too trusting for a student but these proved invaluable to completing my degree and progressing my career in finance. Since returning after graduation, Freightliner have allowed me to gain finance experience in different departments and supported my career progression through CIMA qualification, internal and external coaching and development programs. My colleagues have always trusted in my ability and been happy to help whenever required.

2. What practical advice would you give other women aiming for a senior role in the industry?

I think it’s important women don’t see their progression as being restricted by gender and grab all the opportunities they can to widen their experiences and knowledge. Don’t be shy in expressing your opinions and take credit where its due! I read a great book on the topic when I first qualified which compares the tendencies of men and women in the workplace and makes you notice we can be too polite sometimes (Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg).

Looking back at your career so far, what advice would you give your younger self?

Ask as many questions as you need to, don’t be afraid to speak up, believe in yourself and never stop learning. I’ve been lucky to have been offered a number of opportunities at Freightliner but there has also been a time I felt my development stop. Looking back I took too long to speak to my manager about this as only when I did would they know to change things for the better.


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Rabia Mahmood, Senior Software Engineer - Lloyds Banking Group

1. How have your company's policies and initiatives supported your career?

Being a Software Engineer, I found myself part of a very dynamic Engineering team when I joined Lloyds Banking Group in 2017. I was surrounded by talented colleagues as well as opportunities which allowed me to grow my abilities and skill set. Lloyds supports Agile ways of working and offers an array of benefits, which include Childcare vouchers, Private Medical and Dental plan, Cycle2Work Scheme, Pension, Group Performance Bonus, Matched Learning Fund to name a few.

2. What practical advice would you give other women aiming for a senior role in the industry?

Any senior role comes with a set of responsibilities one has to drive, however it is important to understand the wider impact of decisions within the business as well as the culture of the organisation. It is also very important to understand the pace at which change can and must be implemented, and to build networks to facilitate and inspire progress. Lloyds has a strong network of communities and events, ranging from Engineering, Breakthrough-Women's Network, to BAME and LGBT+. This reflects not only inclusion but also commitment to have diversity drive the organisation's decision making.

Looking back at your career so far, what advice would you give to your younger self?

As a young person I used to think that 100% effort at a particular goal equates to results, 100% of the time. Looking back at my career, I would tell my younger self that opportunities come to those who persistently seek them and to give your best, despite the outcome. This has helped me improve understanding of situations and my own skills throughout my career. I would also strongly advise my younger self to not underestimate the importance of mental health and a balanced lifestyle to have a sustainably successful career.


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Rebecca Lam, FP&A Analyst - Freightliner

1. How have your company’s policies and initiatives supported your career?

Being able to study for the CIMA qualification via the Apprenticeship Scheme has supported me greatly whilst working within G&W. Whilst this has enabled me to increase my technical skills and knowledge to aid me with my day-to-day job it’s also provided me the opportunity to show the soft skills and highlight areas where I may need improving. With regular catchups with my talent coach, it allows me to keep on track to complete my qualification to become a qualified accountant.

2. What practical advice would you give other women aiming for a senior role in the industry?

Take every opportunity as they come. I was lucky enough to have several training opportunities such as business partnering and even excel training. Even though you may think you know the capabilities of software you use every day, guaranteed you probably won’t! Also talk to everyone. They can provide you with key insight to the business and of course tell you great stories!

Looking back at your career so far, what advice would you give your younger self?

Your learning will never end (which you may see as a bad thing) but turns out you quite enjoy learning new things. Also, you may think work at university is hard… but working full time and studying at the same time is even harder! Keep going, it will pay off soon!


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Kehinde Orishayomi, Financial Analytics and Insight Manager - Southeastern Railway

1. How have your company’s policies and initiatives supported your career?

Not only do Southeastern Railway encourage and contribute towards continuous development, they also support flexibility in working patterns, this enabled me to pursue both my career and my role as a mother.

2. What practical advice would you give to other women aiming for a senior role in the industry?

Women should realise that changes are happening in the rail industry, and this is no longer a male only industry. Go-Ahead group, one of the UK's leading public transport providers, it is clearly the case. Our CFO is a woman.

Looking back at your career so far, what advice would you give to your younger self?

I would advise myself to be open to new opportunities regardless of how scary they might look.


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Anjali Lakhani, Senior Finance Business Partner – Rail - Freightliner

1. How have your company’s policies and initiatives supported your career?

I started at Freightliner over 17 years ago when development policies had not yet been structured and fully formulated, however the organisation was keen to develop staff and have supported me though the final stage of my accountancy qualification. On-the-job training has been key and as I progressed up the corporate ladder, training in leadership and supporting staff has been formally provided to me as a manager. Fast forward 17 years and Freightliner now has clear training, mentoring and development policies which continue to support my growth in the organisation.

2. What practical advice would you give to other women aiming for a senior role in the industry?

Don’t let anything deter you, create a plan and stick to it. It is important for you not just be involved in the finance aspect of the business, seek to understand the whole business and the industry as only by taking an active interest can you eventually add the value and achieve great success! The rail industry like any other can be extremely rewarding.

Looking back at your career so far, what advice would you give to your younger self?

a. Be focused and do the work –there is no achievement without effort, being good at something requires a lot of effort and that is what you must invest. b. Be patient –opportunity will come your way if you are patient and wait. c. Don’t doubt your worth –others will value you as much as you value yourself, so value yourself highly and be confident in your abilities.


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Gail Maul, Capital Projects Accountant - Transport for Greater Manchester

1. How have your company’s policies and initiatives supported your career?

TfGM is a very supportive and flexible organisation to work for. The company has a comprehensive Performance and Development Review process which provides a methodical and well-structured approach for identifying career aspirations and the training and experience required to achieve them. Additionally, TfGM’s Finance team provide monthly Continuing Professional Development (CPD) training which helps maintain and progress my skill sets.

Furthermore, although there are core hours, there is flexibility within this and home working is promoted. This has enabled me to continue my career effectively whilst managing the demands of a young family.

2. What practical advice would you give other woman aiming for a senior role in the industry?

My advice is to have a plan of how you would like your career to develop and the professional development needed to achieve it. This plan should be flexible but ultimately driven by your goals. My finance career started through auditing; it became apparent this was not where I wanted to remain. I ensured I obtained varied auditing experiences to determine the areas of finance and the type of organisation I had a real interest in. Before moving to TfGM, I fully researched the organisation, ensuring it would fulfil my career ambitions.

Looking back at your career so far, what advice would you give to your younger self?

I am a Chartered accountant and my main advice would be to complete the required examinations as soon as possible. They can be stressful at times but the duration is a relatively short period of time compared to the rest of your career and provide a solid foundation from which to develop your career. Therefore, the exams should be prioritised and focused upon. I would also obtain as much varied experience as possible to develop your skill set and volunteer for new challenges. This knowledge and experience will become invaluable as you transition through your career.


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Ema Shaka, Senior Finance Business Partner - Network Rail

1. How have your company’s policies and initiatives supported your career?

I started in Network Rail as a junior employee eight years ago in the HR department. I had just graduated for Accountancy at the time and had two young kids. As soon as I started, my line manager was my mentor and identified me as a potential employee to progress in the organisation and guided me in the first few months to apply for roles in finance.

Within a couple of months I started a role in finance, and through the regular 1-2-1’s with line managers I developed a PDP and was achieving the yearly objectives. My PDP was to qualify for ACCA, so funding was approved and I qualified within four years. These were the most difficult challenging years for me and if it wasn’t for the mentoring scheme that was put in place and the mentors that supported me throughout my studies, I wouldn't have been able to qualify in such a short time.

I truly believe that this organisation has got all the platforms in place to give everyone a fair chance on succeeding and achieving their career aspirations. There are various forums that take place throughout the year. I was part of the talent pool and also have been through several leadership training programmes.

Now I lead a team and manage a large number of business partners. I am still being mentored by senior leaders. I wouldn’t success in my role without their support.

2. What practical advice would you give other women aiming for a senior role in the industry?

  • You should always have a PDP and a goal for where you want to be in the next two years and in the next five years.
  • You need to be able to adapt your style, accept criticism and never give up. You need to believe in yourself and work hard to achieve your goals. Everything is possible if you set your mind on it and keep going.
  • Always be positive, even at your darkest times. Remember what you are trying to achieve and never tell yourself that it's not possible.
  • Never doubt yourself on your capabilities. It took me a long time to convince myself that my accent and spelling mistakes weren’t going to stop me to get where I wanted to be. Be aware of this - that some of the stoppers we create ourselves are in our heads and presume that others will judge us. Actually, others don’t even think of our way of thinking, those challenges are only in our heads.
  • Work on your strengths and not weakness. This is what I have done myself by accepting that I would never be perfect on spelling and my accent, but I was able to move forward and had the courage to apply for senior roles. I was not afraid to speak in meetings anymore just because of my accent.

Looking back at your career so far, what advice would you give your younger self?

  • I have had many sleepless nights studying and worrying that I would never be able to achieve my dreams. So I would have advised myself to slow down a bit and don’t worry too much. As long as you put all the effort in everything you do, things will turn out to be as you plan them.
  • One of the mentors changed the way I was thinking a couple of years ago. He helped me learn how to cope with worrying and tell myself that everything has a solution.

Most importantly, I would have told myself, well done you! You’ve worked so hard and your determination got me where I am now.

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About the author

WORK180

WORK180

WORK180 is an international jobs network that connects smart businesses with talented women. We pre-screen every employer on our jobs board to see where they stand on pay equity, flexible working, paid parental leave, equal opportunities and a range of other criteria. We also take into account diversity initiatives focusing on age, ability, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

The information we uncover is made public on our website, so that everyone knows what to expect from each employer before applying for a job. We continually review and evolve our pre-screening criteria to ensure workplaces are fair and equal for everyone.


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