Dealing with diversity: supporting women to succeed

Jade De-Crescenzo

Opinion by Jade De-Crescenzo

The old adage from any female in a male over-represented field tends to be: “I got to where I am because I work twice as hard as my male counterparts”.

While the stigma of women in finance is lifting with every passing year, the financial services sector, including payments, is still primarily staffed with men – and the women remain vastly under-represented.

The number of female senior financial roles is at an all-time high, according to Bloomberg. But the number is still low, particularly within FTSE and Fortune 500 companies.

As a woman in a leadership role in a male-dominated field, I feel a great sense of responsibility toward the next generation of women rising through the ranks. My experiences have given me the confidence and knowledge to lead by example and to suggest ways that companies can develop egalitarian workplaces, which boost productivity – meaning that everyone reaches their potential.

My career path, though successful, didn’t follow a traditional school-to-university-to-graduate job route – so, it is important to highlight, especially to young women, the multiple ways to succeed.

A university degree is only one option. At 16, I went for a job as a post room assistant at an accountancy firm, but because of my A for maths in my GCSEs, I was offered a job as an accounts assistant instead. This set me up on a rewarding career path that has taken me to my current role as UK finance director for PayByPhone, which is an exciting, inclusive place to work.

My advice for young women applies equally to everyone who is serious about continuing to grow and to develop in their careers – it should be a constant journey. Everyone should do things outside their comfort zone.

Making workplaces safe and welcoming for women and creating a culture of training and mentoring, both formal and informal, are vital

The comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing ever grows there. Push yourself gently out of your comfort zone throughout your career and do things you otherwise wouldn’t do, inside and outside of work – you will discover new things about yourself and develop new skills. Find time to invest in self-development, even if you’re really busy.

Building strong professional relationships is important for women. Never underestimate the power of constructive engagement within your own teams and across departments. To do this effectively, treat people the way you want to be treated – ask for the opinions of others, bring people in, make everyone feel included in decision-making.

Finally, be fun and friendly, but put your head down and get on with your job. If you deliver the goods professionally and people can see that, you will command respect.

In male-dominated workplaces this, in turn, gives you the authority to confidently call out inappropriate behaviour when you feel a line has been crossed. And this doesn’t just apply to flagging up workplace inequality – never be afraid to speak up when something important needs to be said. It may seem difficult or even scary at the time, but this skill will stand women in good stead for their entire working lives.

Making workplaces safe and welcoming for women and creating a culture of training and mentoring, both formal and informal, are vital for any organisation that seeks to be relevant, forward-looking and successful in an ever-changing world.

Employers can – and should – play an important role in creating supportive workplaces for female employees. Creating more pro-female environments is not about tokenism, pandering or ticking boxes. It’s about equality for everyone.

Providing support for women is not just about meeting statutory requirements, it is about going to extra mile for women, so everyone wins. In my experience, if women feel supported by their organisations, they will reward them with a strong sense of loyalty.

It’s important for employers to get the best out of all people. If there are gaps, fill them by using the expertise of the whole team and build people up. Always remember that not everyone is good at everything, so organisations need to invest in upskilling and training.

For example, women coming back to work from maternity leave can benefit from refresher training or new skills training to keep up with changes, such as new technology, that might have been introduced while she was away. It’s about making sure women are not disadvantaged merely for being women.

Jade De-Crescenzo is UK Finance Director for PayByPhone

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