On March 21st, I participated of the Women in Finance panel at Banco Santander in Miami, Florida. The event was a total success. The turnout was outstanding and I must point out, the number of men in the audience impressed me. It is not that common to see such a significant male participation in women empowering events. Perhaps the changes that are needed to switch gear are coming into play.
The panel was composed of a variety of professionals from senior executive leaders to junior level roles in the Finance world. All of their stories were relevant, interesting and inspirational. The conversation was insightful, entertaining and packed with great advices. Having worked at a financial institution for twelve years, I identified with their stories, as I understood first hand the struggles to fit in a male dominated industry. At the beginning of one’s career, the fact that you are young adds to the fact that you are a female, having to work around these to fit in the culture, as it was described by the youngest panelist, Mercedes Zhang. She also stressed out the importance of understanding the differences between coaches and mentors and she provided the audience with tips on how to identify a potential mentor.
While you continue your career, prove your potential and become more senior in the workforce, you are still dealing with the fact of being a woman. In my experience, women are greatly acknowledged for their potential to lead groups, get things done and master complex tasks. In that sense, women are acing middle management roles. However, when it comes to executive leadership, financial institutions are still dominated by males. Changes are happening, as one of the panelist, Natalia Obregon, said. She mentioned, for example, that the Group Executive Chairman for Santander is a female.
When the panelists were asked for an advice to be successful in their career, these were some of their answers. Rebecca Brooks emphasized on being authentic and staying true to yourself since that will make you stand out from the crowd. Natalia Obregon talked about taking time for yourself, even if that means waking up really early when your family is still asleep and take at least 30 minutes to invest in yourself. Tisha Turner shared that having work-life balance is very important for her and that she decided not to spend her birthday at the office anymore. Instead, she decided to take off every birthday and wake up in a different country every year.