Today is International Women’s Day and the theme for this year is ‘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.
Kay Parnwell, Head of Private Clients at Investec Bank (Channel Islands) was shortlisted for the 2022 Citywealth PowerWoman of the Year Awards. Here she explains how the work environment has changed since she began her career in banking…
What do you do?
I head up our Private Client Team of 17 professionals split across Guernsey and Jersey.
We specialise in providing banking and lending services to High Net Worth Channel Island clients and UK Resident Non-Domiciled individuals.
What are the two top skills that have benefitted your career to date?
I have always been genuinely interested in people and I believe this together with showing empathy and acting with integrity have helped me throughout my career, and hopefully also benefited clients and colleagues.
How do the Channel Islands play a part in enabling women to achieve their career ambitions?
Overall, I think there is huge support especially across the “white collar” professions, which takes many forms – from encouraging women to take professional qualifications, attend relevant seminars, providing clear career paths to the provision of maternity and paternity leave and ability for hybrid/flexible working.
Most Firms also actively highlight career success in the local media, which provides encouragement to progress personally and professionally. There are also several professional women networking and support groups across the Islands which give women the opportunity to share experience and develop careers.
There are many advantages to living in the Channel Islands. For example the short commute between home and work means that generally there is a better work/life balance compared to most other places in the world, so although you work hard during the day there is still an opportunity to spend time with family and friends during the evening.
Who inspires you and why?
There have been many women and men who have inspired me throughout my life and career.
One of the women I find inspirational is Dame Steve Shirley, who visited Guernsey a few years ago and spoke to a women’s organisation of which I was a member.
She arrived in England as an unaccompanied child refugee at the outset of the Second World War and in 1962 started a software business. Having experienced sexism in her workplace she wanted to create job opportunities for women with dependents and, as a result, she predominately employed women with only three male programmers in the first 300 staff. She also adopted the name of ‘Steve’ to help her in the male-dominated business world because company letters using her signed name were not responded to.
Eventually her company grew to employ 8500 people and was ultimately valued at almost $3bn. She retired in 1993 at the age of 60 and has since focused on her philanthropy particularly on causes associated with autism because her only son who died aged 35 had this condition.
Her ambition is to give away her wealth and now, in her late 80’s, she is driven by a lifetime of extraordinary experiences and achievements and still dedicates every day to making her life one that was worth saving.
How has Investec supported you as you have developed your career?
Hugely – Investec engenders a culture of entrepreneurial spirit, and you are encouraged to drive your own career development which I find refreshing. You are of course given support and guidance to enable you to achieve your ambitions but it’s very much a partnership approach.
Training formed a large part of my development, both informal and formal, and I have benefited by being encouraged to step outside of my comfort zone and learn through taking part in “Out of the Ordinary“ experiences such as learning ( with mixed results ) over a 6 week period how to sing , dance and stage a concert period at the Royal Opera House in London.
If you wrote a book about women in leadership, what would it be called?
Great Expectations – the reason for this is that I think women and indeed our wider society should have great expectations of women leaders.