The topic of gender in the workplace has dominated the headlines over the last couple of years, including #MeToo and the row over equal pay at the BBC. This has made many businesses and organisations take a long hard look at themselves and how they perform in respect to gender equality.
At times like this employers often think about gender and how it relates to discrimination within the workplace. I’ve have had HR directors say to me, “Mike, it would be nice if there are a few more female candidates” on the shortlist for this treasury position.
In the past I have tried to avoid commenting on the subject of recruiting women within the treasury profession. Why? Because to me my job is to put the best candidate in front of my client. Male, female, caucasian, black, partially sighted, physically disabled, whatever and whoever they are, if they are a great treasury person then I will represent them. I believe I shouldn’t positively or negatively discriminate. My job is to find the best treasury talent available within the market at a given moment.
On a personal level, I am a very proud father of two daughters and two sons, I want my children to be measured upon their individual merits as uniquely talented individuals not their gender. However, I am a realist and I know that the treasury profession can prove a challenging environment for women. There are still some dinosaurs out there who when they interview a female candidate they question whether they might leave to have children in a few years’ time and will they have to find someone to cover their maternity leave? Or will they need to replace them?
On a personal level, I believe employers need to consider that women returning to work after having a child need to be supported.
I know of men in treasury roles who have had much more sympathetic treatment and dispensation when returning from illness or injury than many women going back after maternity leave.
“Flexible Working Made My Treasury Career”
Thankfully there are progressive employers out there who do value women in the workforce – whether full time, part time, working flexibility or gradually returning to work.
I had a chat with a Treasurer from a FTSE100 company who took time out of her day to talk to me about flexible working and the positive culture that made her company attractive to women in senior roles.
“The success of my career has been achievable because I’ve been able to work flexibly. If I hadn’t I wouldn’t be here now, because I wouldn’t have been able to make it work.”
When considering the Treasurer role, her first concern was the location of head office. Nearly 100 miles from where she lives, this was a potential deal-breaker.
“Originally, I wasn’t going to go for the interview because of the location of head office, and I wasn’t prepared to do a daily commute. I only agreed to go to the interview if they could accommodate a flexible approach.”
Fortunately, her employer and the senior leadership team do not have a culture of presenteeism. In fact, they are hugely supportive of part time and flexible working for everyone, for all circumstances.
Perhaps in part because of the demographics of their staff across the whole of the group.
“In my first interview we talked about flexible working and their approach to it, and how we could structure the role to allow me to work from home and from their London office as well as the head office. I wanted to establish that the employer truly embraced flexible working, that they were not just paying lip service to it, and the good news was they really are. My working week typically involves two or three days at HQ where I stay over to avoid the commute, a day or two in the London office and one day working from home.”
“I’ve certainly had some lucky breaks along the way, bosses who really understood the value of enabling people to work part time or remotely. That this allowed them to tap in to a workforce that is productive, professional and committed to an employer that is willing to consider and support their work-life balance.”
“However, whilst you could say I was ‘lucky’, surely now, with the connectivity we all have, this should be the norm. There are highly talented people who do fantastic work, of all genders, who need flexibility if they are to manage their family commitments alongside a full-on role. It’s certainly a guiding principle for me with my team.”
It’s not just women who want flexibility but men too. However, generally it is women returning to work after maternity leave or women who need to care for ageing relatives that get the short straw.
My advice for companies seeking to recruit the top treasury talent in today’s market is that you need to be more agile in your attitudes to work. Companies who embrace the idea of more flexible working and support those who need a more constructive work-life balance, gain happier treasury teams. In turn, this will provide a return on investment through increased levels of loyalty and overall productivity.
Which of my Treasurers wouldn’t want a happy treasury team to work with every day?