This week the world is celebrating International Women’s Day with the theme Break the Bias, which is a call for all people to get together and collectively forge women’s equality and celebrate women’s achievements.
Investec is committed to promoting gender diversity and aims to inspire, empower, and support their female colleagues in achieving their full potential.
Jane Niles, Head of the Offshore Real Estate Team at Investec Bank (Channel Islands) explains why International Women’s Day is important…
What do you do?
I lead the Offshore Real Estate team, which has particular focus on the offshore corporate, trust and family office sectors. Investec has a team of expert lenders and bankers who provide real estate and corporate lending as well as a full offshore banking proposition.
I joined Investec in September 2016, continuing to build on my 20-year career in banking across markets and sectors in London, Hong Kong, and Guernsey.
What are the two top skills that have benefitted your career to date?
Tenacity and caring hugely about how we deliver.
How do the Channel Islands play a part in enabling women to achieve their career ambitions?
The Channel Islands have positive levels of female senior leadership within industry. Seeing role models gives women in the workplace a belief that they too can progress as far as they are capable of in their careers.
Personally, my Channel Islands employer granted and continues to grant me a flexible working environment as a working parent. This has enabled me to develop my career post a return to work following a career break to have children.
Who inspires you and why?
There are several leaders I have worked with, both male and female, who have excelled in their own roles and granted their team members the space to grow in a safe environment. It has been those opportunities to stretch myself that I have found the most dial-moving.
In the public space, I have enjoyed following Indra Noori’s career. As the first female CEO of PepsiCo, she has consistently been ranked among the world’s most powerful women.
Following an MBA and several strategic consulting roles, Indra worked her way up at PepsiCo, understanding each aspect of the business before setting or changing strategic direction. Her memoire is well worth a read.
How does enabling women to become leaders benefit an organisation?
The positive impact of diverse leadership is now well understood. This applies across all aspects of diversity and leads to better decisions and more successful businesses. There is limited value in operating in echo chambers, with teams and boards constituted of similar persons with similar backgrounds. We all add different value – the more shades of this the better!
How do you think attitudes towards women leaders have changed in the last decade and what more needs to happen to achieve true equality with men?
In 2012 companies were talking about the benefit of increasing levels of senior women in leadership but there remained much debate about how best to achieve this. Today, there is a fuller understanding that diversity in all aspects is imperative to success – not a nice to have or something that you do to get a tick in that box.
I believe women have very good levels of equality – this balance has changed. However, unconscious bias still impacts women in senior leadership – questions about capabilities and the way in which we lead, which simply don’t occur with men. I would like to see more work done to help people recognise when they are being influenced by their own internal biases – once we each shine a light on our own biases, we can address them and move forward.
How has Investec supported you as you have developed your career?
Today, with the benefits of WFH and a focus on outputs rather than input, I can manage my role as best suits my work, my clients, my team and my family. This autonomy has granted me the ability to be a team leader and a parent.
Investec has also believed in me – I have the support of my line managers who don’t doubt (or at least not publicly!) my ability to deliver. I am hugely grateful for this support.
If you wrote a book about women in leadership – what would it be called?
There are enough books. I’d rather evidence it. If I had to give someone a strapline though it would be ‘Go out there and grab it, you are good enough’.
What do you feel International Women’s Day represents?
IWD gives us a useful reminder that there is still more work to be done and we have still not eliminated biases which impact women in the workplace. As a senior leader in banking, I still experience this.
Thankfully I work for an organisation who doesn’t tolerate such biases, and which trains its people in how to spot this and how to respond. IWD celebrates that progress, whilst shining the torch on the way we have to go.