HSBC strikes a balance for better on International Women’s Day

Pictured L-R: Susan Tobbell, Owner & Director of Starbridge & SGN,  Jo Fairley, CEO Green and Black’s, Iain Stuart, CEO HSBC, UK, Steph and Fiona Daniel, Head of UK D&I

Stephanie Ip is Head of Wholesale Credit Risk, HSBC UK Bank plc and Co-Chair of BALANCE UK, HSBC’s largest employee resource group. A long-standing champion of gender diversity, she strives to bring about positive change, both internally and at agrassroots level.

Here she shares her thoughts on the importance of International Women’s Day (IWD) and striking a #balanceforbetter.

Today is International Women’s Day, a special day where we celebrate women in the workplace, and I reflect back on a breakfast seminar I attended two years ago to mark the occasion.

The event was hosted by Ernst & Young, and it was both inspiring and refreshing to meet several talented women who were active in their fields, some from large corporations like HSBC, others in smaller companies and many who had created their own enterprise.

50% quotas for women?

There was much discussion on creating 50% quotas for women. Clearly there are both pros and cons: on the positive side, the obvious benefit is to achieve ‘parity’ immediately. On the flip side, the risk of such a positive bias is that appointing women is seen as just a tick-box exercise, which would frankly be dreadful as there are so many talented women out there.

Overall the consensus was that a quota was probably appropriate to help fix the issue once and for all, though ultimately it is absolutely critical that it is the best candidate, male or female, that gets the job. Two years on, and universally, progress has been slow.

Women in senior leadership

Within HSBC, we all agree that we need more women in senior leadership positions.  More diversity, across various perspectives, has been encouraged and is on all senior leaders’ scorecards.

Practically, there is a lot tw.o do here, and female representation at the top level requires a powerful magnifying glass (not that a single woman would not stand out in an army of men!), in some areas more than others.

How do we achieve this shared objective?

We talk a lot about unconscious bias and glass ceilings. There is probably a bit of that to varying degrees, depending on where you sit. I also think there is often a glass umbrella that we women hold and that is when we hesitate, doubt and question whether we would do the job 100% well.

It is a bit of a cliché, but typically when looking at a job advert, a woman would want to be absolutely certain that she meets almost all, if not all, of the requirements before putting her name forward whereas a man would probably be happy to give it a go even if he only has half of the criteria!
Therefore, if women do not even put their names forward, the recruitment process would be flawed even before it started.

How do we tackle that?

By encouraging women, all our women, at all levels, to be bold and to give it a try. And if it does not work, that is all right, as another opportunity will come along, but at least we would have raised our hand.

So my message to you women today is: believe in yourself, speak up and ask. Now is the time to be bold and to come forward.

My message to male colleagues is: you have an active role to play in this too as parity will not be achieved if only women strive for it, and you don’t believe in it. This means, for example, that when you see the list of applicants shortlisted for interview and there is no woman, question why that is so; speak to the women in your team and try to establish what the hurdles are.

Social responsibility

As parents and active members of the community we have a wider role to play in society at large, starting with children, be it our own or in schools. We need to help break barriers and encourage future generations to be absolutely open when it comes to future careers and what they can achieve.

When I look at my three children, I know my dream is to see my two daughters grow into strong self-confident women and my son to be a man who will respect and treat women as equal.

Happy International Women’s Day!

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