Diversity and inclusion at work

12 Jul 2019

Last week we held our first The Link women in payments event for the year, in Auckland and Wellington. We explored the topical subject of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.  Around 50 women from across the industry came together to exchange ideas, and share their knowledge and experiences over a networking lunch.

After lunch our guest speaker Catherine Fletcher, GM Payments Operations and Acting Chief Engineer at ASB shared some of her learnings about diversity and inclusion, including giving a few examples of what ASB is doing in this space.

With decades of experience in technology, banking and finance, Catherine began her career as an office assistant in a share broking firm in the 1980s, where she experienced first-hand what it was like to be a woman working in a predominantly man’s world. She eventually went on to found her own business, Outsource IT, before making the move to ASB, where she has held several different roles from tech development to business management.

Diversity and inclusion go hand-in-hand

Catherine spoke to us about how people can make a difference both in the workplace and outside of it, wrapping this up with a wider group discussion. Through her own experiences and as part of ASB’s Diversity and Inclusion Council, Catherine is a huge believer of making a difference both in the workplace and outside of it.

She talked about the importance of an organisation “setting the tone” from the top down. A personal example of this was with her own startup, where she made the choice to employ well-qualified female engineers. Part of this was to ensure better representation and a culture shift from within. But it was still important that those female engineers were in their roles due to merit, and not just for the sake of diversity.

Catherine said a big lesson ASB learned was that diversity and inclusivity needed to go hand-in hand. It’s important to have representation for a broad range of people such as for gender identity, ethnicity, lifestyle and LQBTQIA. However, once they start employing diverse staff, companies also need to start establishing what their individual needs could be in and outside of work. They can then plan for initiatives that support and welcome diverse employees in the workplace.

There are many benefits to having a diverse workplace, with one of the highlights being that diversity can add a richness to discussion and output through people bringing in different perspectives and viewpoints.

As a group we then discussed the importance of supporting women with different life experiences and priorities, no matter what they are, so they feel comfortable bringing their whole selves into work. This was key to creating an inclusive and supportive culture at work.

Nurturing women working in payments

A good place to start if an organisation wants to encourage more women into senior roles is to ensure they feel confident enough to put their hand up when opportunities arise, said Catherine. Women will often wait until they’re confident of being able to do 100% of the role from day one, whereas men tend to put themselves forward for roles even if they don’t tick all the boxes. ASB tested and proved this hypothesis in research done when setting up their mentoring programme.

Last year, ASB’s mentoring programme matched 29 ladies with suitable mentors (both men and women), who supported them over 6-9 months. The programme empowered women to start building up their confidence, encouraging them to put themselves forward even if they had doubts. Catherine said women needed to question “what’s the worst that can happen?”, and that even if they don’t get the job, it could still turn into a learning opportunity for them to identify what needed to be done to get where they want to go.

80% of the women who joined this mentoring programme ended up in a new role, with 25% going to more senior positions within the organisation.

At an individual level, women should also think about how they can influence and lift up each other, said Catherine. In particular, they could think about what resources they might already have at their disposal or require, and where within their workplace they can find extra support.

The group discussed some practical tips on how to best nurture women working in payments. Some suggestions included having a formal process for passing down knowledge within the organisation, creating a platform where women can share knowledge (such as The Link), and supporting each other by recommending colleagues for suitable opportunities.

Celebrating real difference

ASB’s Diversity and Inclusion Council oversees seven network groups that are representative of various communities within the bank. Together, these groups work on creating an environment where difference is not just accepted but celebrated.

Catherine said it was important to create a place of inclusivity, and that this tone needed to be set from the top. Leaders must be open to understanding different viewpoints, and be prepared to really listen and support change.

Tapping into the different perspectives of those from diverse backgrounds, cultures, sexual orientation, gender expression can help organisations better understand their customers, who after all, also come from different walks of life.

Thanks for attending

A big thank you to everyone who took the time to attend the lunch. Thank you also to Catherine for her valuable insights into diversity and inclusion.

We’re looking forward to bringing the network together again later in the year.