It is not often that one walks into a boardroom to meet members of a company’s executive management committee who are all heads of their respective departments and who just all happen to be women. In fact it is so rare, that it continues to make the news. Out of 14 members at HSBC Malta, half of them are women.
The bank recently held a roundtable for members of the press to explain its forward-looking policies for gender equality, and to explain how it put into place a conscious decision to increase the percentage of women at the top from 25% to 41%. And they did this in just two years.
It all boils down to the people at the top; in the case of HSBC Malta, CEO Andrew Beane is a firm believer in gender equality as an ongoing process and has put measures into place to ensure that gender equality did not remain just a ‘buzzword’, but was actually actioned.
This was done through gender balance in interviewing panels so that any prospective employee is not met by a room full of men, but instead, a balanced panel which reflects society. Flexible working hours are automatically extended to both parents on the birth of their child on an opt out basis, in other words it is assumed that a new mother or father will avail themselves of the flexibility, unless they choose not to. The possibility of additional parental leave is also extended to both. Mr Beane pointed out that the bank prefers its staff to give priority to family demands, such as attending important school appointments, because that ensures a much healthier work-life balance, as well as happier staff.
There is no gender pay gap and the bank is continuously striving to achieve diversity in the way it operates, especially at senior management level.
Discussing their roles, all the women present said that the culture of gender equality and family-friendly flexibility at the bank made it relatively easy for them to take on any new challenges and opportunities for career growth they were offered. It is a mindset which is not easy to find within Malta’s corporate culture where the prevailing attitude in most cases is that of the proverbial glass ceiling which women are still trying to shatter, and which still holds them back from receiving well-deserved promotions. As they recounted the trajectory of their banking careers, these women described another type of culture, where any possible obstacles are removed, rather than created, and where advancement by female staff is actively encouraged. Mentoring of junior female staff is also very important as is the way the bank’s adverts are drafted and designed.
HSBC has shown that, where those in charge make a deliberate decision to promote diversity, the changes follow. It may not be easy to remove historical and cultural bias at the workplace, especially in a traditionally male-dominated sector like banking, but as it was pointed out, the senior management is simply mirroring what is happening in society with an increase of more female entrepreneurs who bring their business to the bank.
More women in boardrooms in decision-making posts is essential for a more equal society, and HSBC has shown that yes, it can be done.
HSBC staff present at the roundtable were:
Anna Camilleri – Head of Internal Audit
Emma Nuttall – Chief Financial Officer
Joyce Grech – Chief Risk Officer
Mandy Falzon – Acting Head of Regulatory Compliance
Franco Aloisio – Head of Communications
Irina Seylanyan – Head of Global Markets
Andrew Beane – Chief Executive Officer
Caroline Buhagiar Klass – Head of Human Resources
Jane Estey – Head of Financial Crime Compliance