The Power of Gender Diversity
by Deepali Pendse, Head of Corporate Treasury Sales, Southeast Asia, Bank of America Merrill Lynch
The transitional nature of the Asia Pacific treasury space lends itself to new ideas, innovative platforms and enhanced practices better than at any other time in recent history. This transition is being seen at the strategic level, being rolled out at the technology level and more recently, this evolution is occurring at the cultural level. Embracing positive change has become a core value in the treasuries we talk to every day.
This transitional phase provides a clear opportunity to address one of the biggest issues in the global workforce, that of gender equality. Across the region, progress has been made. Currently, there are several positive trends addressing gender equality across Asia Pacific:
a) Companies have implemented programmes to fix structural biases against women and support their full participation in leadership and
b) Considerable time and resources are being invested in mentors and developmental opportunities.
Even with the above commitments, these same companies are still observing leaking pipelines at mid-level to senior level. This tells us that, perhaps, gender equality is being addressed at a junior to mid-level in certain functions/companies, but it still remains to be addressed in the mid to senior level representation.
Women make up 40% of the global workforce, with double-digit growth in certain countries. However, women only represent 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs and less than 15% of corporate executives at top companies worldwide. Viewed holistically, gender equality can no longer be considered purely a 'women's issue,' with corporations of all sizes and sectors treating this as more of a leadership issue
The benefits of this change remain to be seen in the form of redefining financial services workplace, influencing board decisions, affecting the broader global economy and strengthening the culture of the international workforce. The business case for greater equality is clear. Across both corporations and financial institutions, expanding the number of women leaders means more diversity of thought, diversity of leadership style, and diversity of perspective to an organisation.
Ultimately, when the dots are connected, any given corporation has a greater ability to bridge gaps with clients, solve problems and enhance productivity. When these facts are considered, an extremely powerful argument in favor of supporting gender equality – at all levels – seems almost impossible to ignore.
Ability to change
The treasury function is ripe to take a leadership role, particularly in Asia Pacific. This plays to the existing strengths of the treasury function and its ability to drive change on a wider scale.
In Asia Pacific, which has a rich cultural diversity, an evolving corporate culture and expanding commitment to innovation, the opportunity to address gender inequality is great. At Bank of America Merrill Lynch we see clear scope to address existing imbalances by creating a richer dialogue both with internal employees and externally, with our clients. As the treasury function in Asia Pacific positions itself as a more strategic component in any given organisation, we believe this industry can rise to the challenge of delivering meaningful change at the corporate level.
The regional treasury space provides the perfect environment to push this forward-thinking agenda. The transition theme in the region’s rapidly growing and ever-sophisticated treasury arena is evident. This provides a here-and-now opportunity to take a leadership role in promoting gender equality, and ensures that the role of the treasury department continues its strategic transition with new ideas and viewpoints.
Given the breadth of female talent and executive representation in many of the region’s largest and most complex finance departments, women in treasury are uniquely positioned to prompt greater debate on the issues that will tackle the legacy inequality issues at the leadership level. They are positioned to serve as a champion of diversity and inclusion campaigns and lead discussions at the management level to take this business critical issue to the next level. And significantly, many women in treasury are aware of the main issues that need to be tackled to make progress on gender issues in their space and more willing to share their views.
“Representation of women at senior levels across the treasury space is stable but low compared to the number of men,” says one director of treasury at a multinational. “However, at the junior to mid level, women are represented well. There is clear scope to address this imbalance given the level of talent in this industry.”