More needs to be done at the grass-roots level to attract women to what is at times, but not always, an unsociable and high pressured city career in finance, said Nick Corrigan, Managing Director, Head of Leveraged Finance London at Societe Generale.
Corrigan recently spoke to WeAreTheCity about his support for the United Nation’s HeForShe campaign, and shared how diversity has strengthened his team.
Before Societe Generale Corrigan worked at Scotiabank Europe in Acquisition and Leveraged Finance, in addition to holding roles in global risk management in Toronto and Corporate Banking. He has a degree in Mathematics and a Masters in Psychology from the LSE which he says goes a little in helping to balance the need for the technical and the human aspects of the job.
Societe Generale has close to 150,000 employees, comprised of 122 nationalities in 76 countries. Women make up 60% of the company’s staff worldwide with 42.8% of its Board of Directors being female. In 2014, 44% of Group managers were women.
Corrigan said he wished the city overall would move faster on gender equality, but that things are starting to change: “I came out of University 20 years ago thinking my generation was going to be the one that broke the barriers with gender, homophobia, and other areas of discrimination but as I look around the city now, I’m not convinced enough progress has been made.
“It doesn’t feel to me that enough has changed given how few women are in senior positions overall. At a grass roots level, not enough women are applying for roles in the city. Over the last couple of years, I have been looking to strengthen the team with additional analysts and associates – we had a short list of about 50-60 CVs, to go through but only five to six were from women. Why are we being limited to such a small pool of the intellectual capital available in the market from both men and women ?”
He noted that the city can be seen as an unsociable and male dominated environment with long working hours, which could deter women from applying for jobs in the industry: “Some jobs in the city are seen as unsociable, dominated by men alongside a high pressured environment with the need to work some weekends.
“Top managers need to be vocal about the realities of the role and highlight a willingness to be more flexible when it comes to the humanity of the job. They need to address the shortfall of women at high levels across the City instead of not acknowledging a problem. Women tend not to apply for a promotion when they feel they’re not 100% capable of all the tasks at the next level. The message is that the next step up the ladder will involve things you don’t already know and that’s perfectly acceptable. By definition, a change of role will bring with it new areas of intellectual challenge yet to be mastered.”
Corrigan highlighted that the negative perception of some jobs in the city needs to change and can be fixed by more leaders speaking out about their own roles and the flexibility involved.
“There’s a difference between reality and perception of what a job in the city entails. For some, there is a terrible perception of male dominance, glass ceilings and intolerable working conditions, so we need more high profile people standing up and saying this isn’t the reality and that people are not treated that way,” he said.
On flexible working Corrigan added: “If you’re not being vocal on ‘the shop floor’ in your support for women then you’re accepting things as they are and accepting the current rate of change. When we look back in 30 years we need to ensure much has changed. If not, we will fall behind other industries and become irrelevant.
“In terms of home working, our industry trusts employees to work on multi-billion Euro transactions, so trusting them to work diligently from home is nothing. In an environment where some women choose to have families, if businesses don’t provide some accommodation for the competing pressures, then half of your universe and intellectual capital isn’t available to you and in this world of intense competition, women will make the difference between those businesses that prosper and those that do not. ”
Societe Generale has a women’s network which was recently rebranded as Equilibrium to ensure the network appeals to men as well as women.
Corrigan said he has been to several of the network’s meetings: “I attended and it was an eye opener to hear how work can be a different environment for some women. The discussion was about how we can get more women into senior roles. However, I think some men think ‘why should I bother going as a representation of the problem and a potential target ?’ I’ve been fortunate to get involved and hear the challenges women face through these meetings and there are experiences I hear that I would not have otherwise appreciated had I not heard it first hand.
“It’s important to encourage more men to attend these meetings to break any negative perceptions that exist for some in relation to the content of such meetings.”