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Series Sixteen, Episode Three – Power and Potential – gender and generational dynamics across ASEAN

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Recorded live at the Women in Payments ASEAN Symposium, in Singapore on 25 October 2023, with senior leaders, rising stars and industry experts from across the ASEAN region in attendance.  Our host Julia Streets is joined by Danielle Sharpe, Chief of Staff to the Global Head of Transaction Banking for Standard Chartered Bank, Sanjeev Chatrath, Partner, Financial Services & Asia Pacific Payments Leader at EY and Kristy Duncan, Founder and CEO of Women in Payments.  The panel discussion explores trends and developments across the ASEAN region, gender dynamics, the power and potential of intersectionality, and the importance and influence of male allyship.

Danielle Sharpe, Chief of Staff to the Global Head of Transaction Banking for Standard Chartered Bank, Sanjeev Chatrath, Partner, Financial Services & Asia Pacific Payments Leader at EY and Kristy Duncan, Founder and CEO of Women in Payments.
Sanjeev Chatrath, Partner, Financial Services & Asia Pacific Payments Leader at EY

Sanjeev Chatrath, Partner, Financial Services & Asia Pacific Payments Leader at EY

Sanjeev Chatrath is Partner, Financial Services & Asia Pacific Payments Leader at EY, focused on helping world’s leading Financial Institutions, and Capital Market organizations by leveraging EY’s global network and assets across all its service lines including assurance, consulting, strategy and transactions, and tax services. He is also EY’s Asia Pacific leader for Payments. Sanjeev has over 27 years of leadership experience in Financial Services, Data, and New Economy businesses building high-performing businesses in early-stages as well as at scale (those generating revenue over USD 2.5 Bn per annum). Sanjeev is a founding member and previous Co-chair of the Male Allies initiative of The Women's Foundation and member of the 30% Club promoting gender diversity at board and senior management levels. He is a senior advisor to Habitat for Humanity-Hong Kong, Mentor for Web 3 Women, and Advisory Board member for NINEby9 - focused on driving Gender Equality within Organizations across Asia by 2030. Sanjeev was previously member of Executive Committee and Board of Governors for the American Chamber of Commerce Hong Kong, and Board Member of Asia Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (ASIFMA)

Danielle Sharpe, Chief of Staff to the Global Head of Transaction Banking for Standard Chartered Bank

Danielle Sharpe, Chief of Staff to the Global Head of Transaction Banking for Standard Chartered Bank

Danielle Sharpe is Chief of Staff to the Global Head of Transaction Banking for Standard Chartered Bank. She is responsible for the day-to-day running of the Global Transaction Banking business and execution of strategic initiatives. Danielle has held various roles across financial services and law enforcement, spanning both retail and wholesale banking. A results-trained NeuroLeadership Institute Coach, she has a passion for helping women visualise goals and break through barriers.

Kristy Duncan, Founder and CEO of Women in Payments

Kristy Duncan, Founder and CEO of Women in Payments

Kristy Duncan is a sought-after advisor, investor, and speaker, Kristy has dedicated her career to empowering the professional and personal development of women in the payments and fintech industry. She founded Women in Payments in 2012, a global organization that connects, educates, and champions women in the payments industry. Prior to that, Kristy was a leading global payments consultant. She advised C-suite leaders at global financial institutions, payments networks, fintechs, regulators, and more. Prior to that, she held leadership positions at a tier one Canadian bank in the areas of corporate treasury, transaction banking, finance, and operations. Today, Kristy works closely with fintech founders to help them build pivotal relationships, secure funding, and take their businesses to the next level.

Series Sixteen, Episode Two Transcript

Julia: Hello, my name is Julia Streets, and welcome to DiverCity Podcast, talking about equity, inclusion, and diversity in financial services.

On the podcast, we seek to shine a light on positive progress, call out areas requiring further focus, and offer lots of ideas to help drive change. Today, we are recording this episode live on stage at the Women in Payments ASEAN Symposium live in Singapore.

Together, today, we are going to be exploring notable trends and developments in the region. In this episode, we’ll be exploring gender dynamics, the power and the potential of intersectionality, and the role of male allyship. Allow me to introduce our guests. I am joined on stage by Danielle Sharpe, Sanjeev Chatrath, and Kristy Duncan.

Danielle Sharpe is the chief of staff to the global head of transaction banking for Standard Chartered Bank. She is responsible for the day-to-day running of the global transaction banking business and execution of strategic initiatives. She has held several roles across financial services and law enforcement, which is where she started her career, in the police force, spanning both retail and wholesale banking. Danielle, welcome to the show.

Danielle: Thank you.

Julia: Joining Danielle is Sanjeev Chatrath. He’s a partner of the financial services and Asia Pacific payments leader at EY, focused on helping world’s leading financial institutions and capital market organisations across many areas. Think assurance, consulting, strategy, transactions, tax services. He’s also EY’s Asia Pacific Leader for Payments. He’s the founding member and the previous co-chair of the Male Allies Initiative of the Women’s Foundation and a member of the 30% Club promoting gender diversity at board and senior management levels. Sanjeev, welcome to the show.

Sanjeev: Thanks, Julia, for having me.

Julia: It’s a pleasure. Last but not least is Kristy Duncan. She has dedicated her career to empowering the professional and personal development of women in the payments and fintech industries. She founded Women in Payments back in 2012, a global organisation that connects, educates, and champions women in the payments industry. Prior to that, she was a global payments consultant, advising C-suite leaders at global financial institutions, payments networks, fintechs, regulators, and more. Kristy, welcome to the show. It’s great to be here at your amazing symposium.

Kristy: It’s a pleasure to be here, too, with you, Julia. Thank you.

Julia: I’ve given a brief introduction for each of you. I’d love to come to each of you to explore what you’re particularly focused on right now beyond your biographies. Kristy, in about one minute, what are you focused on?

Kristy: Thanks so much for that, Julia. Well, I think at a macro level, clearly, I’m here to build a global community of women and our allies around the world of payments. We also strive to deliver value to our community of women leaders, innovators, rising stars, as we just celebrated the awards here for ASEAN.

At a micro level, we run six symposia every year around the world of payments in six different markets. We run award and recognition programmes. We run mentorship and leadership programmes. We do weekly networking events, our palm cafes. We’ve got My Career in Six, which profiles career options and some amazing women leaders in our industry. We’ve got a talent board. Lots going on and lots to keep us busy and helping us to build this global community.

Julia: Amazing. If you think about the impact of that work, I mean, that is significant. I know that membership is a really core part of what you are doing. Sanjeev, can I come to you as well? Again, beyond the world of your biography and your world in payments, curious to know what you are focused on right now.

Sanjeev: A lot of my focus also is around what the impact is for the work that I do. I’m very, very grateful that I am very privileged to work for an organisation that’s very deeply rooted and committed towards promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Outside of work, in my personal capacity. Very recently, we’ve made a pro bono commitment to run sessions for executives briefing around new emerging topics of future growth, like GenAI, blockchain, etc. You already mentioned I’m part of the 30% Club. Very focused on how we can get greater women representation at the senior-most levels within organisations. I’m also on the advisory board of NINEby9, which is a local NGO in Singapore which is very focused on researching what it’ll take to get to parity in the Asian context. A lot of the research on this topic has a very Western slant. We are focused on what’s required in this particular region given just the social norms, as well as backgrounds tend to be very distinct to other parts of the world.

Julia: NINEby9. I love that. I’m very curious. If only we had time, I think we could do a whole episode on each of your initiatives. Danielle, let me ask you the same question. What are you focused on?

Danielle: Absolutely. I come with a corporate agenda, of course. I’m very interested in making sure that Standard Chartered, as an organisation, can do the right thing by our colleagues. But I also sit on the alumni advisory board for Loughborough University. Again, that’s getting into the depths of early careers. For me, the passion that I bring to this is the gender agenda beyond traditions.

Think intersectionality. Think females as breadwinners and what’s the role of a man in that. Think females and age, the generation. A very interesting statistic is that, for Asia, the median age today is actually 31.9. There is a big role for up-and-coming female talent in leadership. Therefore, I have a strong passion in driving that both across the region and across my network.

Julia: It’s fascinating because across the board, we’re thinking pipeline, as you say, from an early age, right the way through to board representation and, of course, inspiring the rising stars and the innovators in the middle.

Kristy, let’s get into your observations of the region, if you like. Can I come to you first when we think about, you very much have a global remit. But when you observe across the ASEAN region, what gender representation dynamics do you particularly observe?

Kristy: Thanks for that question, Julia. I wanted to pull in some statistics here. Deloitte has done a study called Advancing Women in Financial Services in 2021. They looked at a number of different regions around the world. What they found was that in Singapore, in particular, because the government has made it a priority for diversity at various levels, looking at this senior leadership level, in particular, Singapore enjoys 25% women leaders at the senior leadership level. I won’t get into all the other levels, but just starting there. That’s forecasted to stay about the same for the next few years.

Across ASEAN, however, not all the countries have come to realise that gender diversity as and is an advantage and a priority. When we look at, for example, Japan, which is not exactly part of ASEAN, but part of Asia, in general, their senior leadership is, women comprise about 4% of that senior leadership level. In India, it’s about 10% compared to Singapore, here is around 25%.

Singapore is doing quite well. We had some fabulous women speakers here today. There’s lots of opportunity. When we look at the World Economic Forum, has done a global gender gap study in 2023, Norway and Iceland come out, of course, on top, as they often do. Singapore’s number 49. Singapore’s got a gender gap of 73.9% versus the global average of 68.4%. We’re ahead of the global average but still lagging behind the world leaders.

Where must we focus to promote this gender agenda and the gender diversity, as I call it? Well, certainly, recognising that gender diversity is a priority. It can help us to gain competitive advantage. It can help us to do a lot of things. We need to actually promote that and prioritise that. We need to measure and monitor our gender pay gaps. We need things like all roles flex policies, allowing people in our organisations to work how they want, where they want, when they want. Our leaders must be visible role models in these things.

Lastly, I think we also need targets and KPIs. You can’t actually promote things unless you’re measuring them and measuring the progress over time. Lots of opportunity to do that. I’m looking forward to seeing that progress.

Julia: As we know, if you can measure it, it gets done. But let me just pick up on one particular area, though, where you talked about the dynamics of flexible working. Danielle, I’d love to get your thoughts on this because more people I talked to in the region, they say, “Don’t forget the familial dynamics at play.” I’d love to come to you, if you would, about the history of family structures. Somebody described it to me as the baggage of heritage of the way in which families support each other. I think, particularly, I hear people talk about expectations of grandparents, the role of mothers-in-law, other family members on supporting women as they also want to drive their careers. I’d love to get your thought, particularly what positive support models you see being created.

Danielle: Thank you for the question. Firstly, a disclaimer. I am not a woman from ASEAN. I’m also not a mother for various reasons, but primarily through choice. However, the role that I have played in Singapore for the last four years has allowed me to sit in a leadership capacity across a front-to-back population of 5,000 people. I’ve learned, I’ve heard, I’ve listened, and I’ve reflected a lot.

Now, to come to that from the family expectations/and or the societal norms, let’s call it, there definitely is a role for grandparents. There is no denying that, in the ASEAN culture, it does appear that the expectation is that you stay at home with your family until you have your own. When you do have your family, your family will help.

Now, speaking to my colleagues across the region, there’s a few misconceptions that they informed me of. The first one being that the family network is willing, the second being that the family network is able or available, and thirdly is that it actually helps them. Now, to reflect a moment on those comments, of course, if you’re from a large family, which often is the case, perhaps other children or grandchildren are prioritised. If your parents are of a certain age, they may not even be here anymore. That’s a real-life situation. Of course, when it comes to whether or not it actually helps, sometimes it causes more stress than it does ability for a female to go back into the workforce knowing that whoever’s looking after them across the family will respect their parental expectations.

I think in terms of support networks that I’ve seen, first and foremost, a couple of statistics to bring this to life because I think it helps. Firstly, female management in ASEAN between the years of 2000 and 2020 actually only rose by two percentage points. When you look at some of the global and macro crises that are happening across the world, let’s take the COVID pandemic as one, it was clear that, actually, that added a huge amount of extra pressure on females at that time. One of the statistics from the UN was that during that COVID pandemic period, school closures added an extra 672 billion hours of unpaid childcare. Based on the gender divide in the pre-pandemic world, women shouldered 512 billion of those.

Yet, when you look at the dual career percentages, McKinsey, they’ve recently published their women in the workplace report. The statistics show that 81% of working women are in dual career partnerships, but actually, only 56% of men can say the same. This one really, really interested me. This was a quote from the Minister of Social and Family Development in Singapore. He said that only 55% of men who had access to paternal leave actually took the paternal leave. That’s because they didn’t feel as though society would look at them as doing the right thing. It’s not their role to look after children. And so something’s got to change.

I think society has a huge role to play in that we need to look at social norms more broadly and collectively. We can’t just do that in the financial services, but where I see support models really coming into their own, It is active fathers. It is active partners. Of course, the family network plays a big role in that, but also the networks that organisations provide. Having those lean in circles, having people to bounce ideas around on and know that it’s okay, it’s okay to work flexibly. Actually, being at home doesn’t mean that you’re not working, or out of sight doesn’t mean out of mind. I think we’ve come a long way, but we’ve got a huge way to go.

Julia: I think that’s why it’s important to come to you. Thank you for the comments you made at the beginning, acknowledging not being from the region and also not having children as well. I really appreciate that. But the reason why I came to you with the question is because, as a chief of staff, you have the purview of the entire organisation. Getting the thoughts of your employee base was incredibly important to bring that into the conversation.

Sanjeev, curious to hear your point of view as well. Based on your observation and also reflecting on what you’ve just heard, as well, what do you see that works well? Where do you think there should be greater understanding, appreciation, and improvement?

Sanjeev: When I think about it, I think there’s a lot of positive momentum. I think we need to acknowledge it because, otherwise, I think we can start to feel very, very down in terms of everything that’s stacked up against this particular cause. I think when I reflect over my career over the last 27 odd years, no doubt there is progress on many fronts. I think, for one, there is much heightened greater awareness on this particular topic. A lot of the conversations, like the conversation we are having today, perhaps would’ve been even taboo maybe 25 years ago. I think the fact that there’s better access to information data is encouraging.

I think many progressive companies are taking steps, and many of them are trailblazing in terms of some of the policies that are instituting. Increasingly, you do find both governments as well as private sector working hand-in-hand on many of those fronts.

Having said that, I think the pace of change, you asked in terms of what are the things that are working well and what not. I think the pace of change still leaves a lot to be desired. Depending on which research report you look at, anywhere between 100 years to 170 years is when people expect to get to parity. Clearly, that’s not good enough. I think we do need to reflect on what else needs to be done to accelerate it. Similarly, I think there’s a very real risk that if we don’t engage in what the future of work is going to be, there is a very real risk that we are going to carry through a lot of those traditional biases that have existed in particularly white collar roles into the future of workforce.

We know over the next seven/eight years, almost 80-plus percentage of jobs are going to get significantly transformed. If that’s the case, we need to ensure that there’s a level playing field in terms of access to information/access to new emerging technology skills. These are not going to get developed in just social close circles. But everybody needs to have equitable access so they can also develop themselves/also re-skill themselves to be even more contributing in the future of work.

The last thing I’ll say, which is also both a plus as well as a risk, is, in this particular region, and Danielle alluded to the fact that demographic dividends work really well for Asia, where the median age is anywhere between 31. ASEAN is even better. It’s about 30 years, relative to other parts of Asia, but also other parts of the world. I think that’s a very, very positive thing. 

This region has also always been a very enthusiastic adopter of new technology, which is evidenced by a lot of new innovations that are happening in payments in this particular region. A lot of very groundbreaking, transformative stuff. I think that tells us that the new generation is going to be a lot more adept to be using technology to solve a lot of those issues. We need to ensure, though, that you’ve got equal representation of men as well as women in designing those new technology tools so that you don’t carry forward the same biases that have existed.

For example, the point that Danielle made: if a lot of the time that women are spending outside of work is to take care of the household, we know already through research that women generally tend to be time-poor because of just the multiple jobs and multiple hats that they wear. I say I think we’ve got to also, hence, ensure that a lot of the new technology investments are happening in those areas that are going to ensure that women are able to manage a lot of those norm expectation from a society and become much more efficient in doing those things. It isn’t going to happen if somebody doesn’t deliberately lean into it. I think there is value to think about, are we directing a lot of those investments around end capital/around new technology in those areas, which can help everybody equally? Hence, I mean, whether it’s FemTech, HerTech, a lot of those themes I think are very relevant in this particular region.

Julia: That’s about lifestyle efficiency, home efficiency, organisational efficiency, also looking at the future and ensuring that it’s fit for the contemporary world. But also, it brings all your employees and all your talents with you, which is phenomenal.

One of the things, just to move the conversation on just a fraction, is I’d love to think about, and this is what we do on the podcast. We talk about diversity and inclusion through the lens of gender but also LGBTQ+, race, neurodiversity, age, disability, parental care, and so, so much more. A really big element of that, of course, is this word intersectionality and the power of it. Danielle, can I come to you? When you think about driving change at scale, and that is the remit of your role, is what particularly impresses you? What do you look at and just go, “That’s great practice?” Not just best practice, but great practice.

Danielle: It’s a really interesting question. Before I answer it, there’s an American civil rights activist named Kimberlé Crenshaw. She once said, “Not all inequality was created equal.” She’s absolutely right. I think it’s about moving away from the facets of being one specific stereotypical inequality that may be labelled as you. Now, my experience as a mid-career white heterosexual woman may look different to the experience of a late-career woman of colour. Recognition of that is really, really key. Where I have seen organisations come together in order to really make a difference here is, a) opening up the conversation so that people start to recognise and understand that there is more to this than just one facet of who you are and who you belong to.

Secondly, it’s driving policies. It’s driving policies that are applicable to all different walks of life and not just the traditions that we once knew. Therefore, parental leave, as an example, iIt should not matter how that child came into the world. It doesn’t matter if you’re a biological parent or not. You still have a child and therefore, the applicability of that policy becomes important. I am seeing more and more of that. That’s certainly where I become impressed and want to see more at scale.

Julia: Thank you. It’s important to get your thoughts on that. Kristy, can I bring you in here as well? I’d love to hear your thoughts about areas of positive progress.

Kristy: We are starting to see the green shoots, as it were. I am agreeing certainly with everything that Sanjeev and Danielle have said so far. But really, across the industry, across various different geographies, we are starting to get more and more recognition at senior levels of our corporations,/of our governments that diversity is a priority. They’re moving towards putting in place policies, national policies/corporate policies, to start to address that, which is a positive thing.

Flexible work policie, we’ve been through the pandemic now. We know that we can work, certainly in financial services, most of us, remotely and still be effective. Somebody once said, “We need to fix the industry, not the women.” I think this is a really good example of that, is changing our mindset.

Another thing that I see from my vantage point is, as a global industry, financial services, many of our organisations are headquartered outside of ASEAN. Often, if they’re headquartered in a region that might be further advanced in their thinking on gender diversity in particular, then they bring their corporate policies to their different regions within that organisation. That starts to push on the gender agenda in the different regions, which is a good thing. The other thing is that some of these global organisations and some of the local ones, as well, are starting to push the gender agenda up and down their supply chains, which also helps to promote that agenda. The last thing that I’ll mention, but only briefly, is male allyship because I know we’re going to talk about that soon.

Julia: Well, there’s only one person we could come to in the question of my male allyship. Sanjeev, I’d love to bring you in here, really. Well, actually, let’s ask you more directly, if you don’t mind, because I’m curious to know what convinced you to step up as a notable male ally and as a role model. What advice do you give your male colleagues to follow suit?

Sanjeev: That’s going to probably have a long answer. But I’ll start by saying that maybe I think there’s a personal and there’s a professional angle to it. Let me start with the professional one. I’m convinced that, I think, if you want to build a high-performing team, you need to have a diverse team. I’ve experienced it firsthand throughout my career. I know it.

Of course, nowadays, there’s a lot more study to back it up: that if you wanted to build a resilient organisation, if you want to build a high-performing organisation, why organisation even economies, that, diverse teams actually do outperform non-diverse teams over a sustained period of time. I think that, to me, is almost like table stakes. For me, I think if you want to build a leadership team, whether you want to build a high-performing business, it is in your interest to ensure that team represents the community that you operate in and the clients that you serve.

The personal one, I think actually, unlike many of my other male allies that I’ve been very fortunate to partner with on a number of those initiatives, including the male allies network that you referenced, when we originally started, it was five of us. Now, that network has grown to about 150 C-suite men who’ve all taken personal and professional pledges on what action they’re going to do to bring about change.

All of us have got different stories. For me,I’ve got a personal story, which actually is, I’m married to a very, very strong woman who also continually challenges me on different things, where I can develop myself further and can be a very straight shooter in terms of what I need to be different. It’s great to have a council or a sounding board on many of those things.

But what really inspired me right at the beginning was my mum, who was a working mother in India way back in the ’60s when the infrastructure, you can imagine, was not as developed. She was working on factory floors, managing hundreds of men on a factory floor. I think about her career and how she was able to navigate through all of her work in a society where she was the only working mother in many neighbourhoods around her.

When I was young, I did not have a full appreciation why my mum was not there to receive me at the school gate when all the other mothers were there. But as time went by, I could see the amount of fulfilment, but also the amount of impact that she had had and not just at work, but also in the broader community. For me, I think that was very, very inspiring to know that she could have achieved much more if there was the right environment around her. I feel that I really want to create a lasting impact. Whatever I can do in my limited capacity, I’m very, very committed to doing it.

Julia: Wonderful. Thank you for sharing your personal story and also your commitment to working with other men and other male allies in your organisation as well to bring them to the table. The time ticks by on podcasts. I wish I could control it, but sadly I can’t. But I am really curious to come to each of you and see what we’ve not talked about so far. We’ve covered an extraordinary amount in quite a short period of time. Kristy, can I come to you? First of all, what are the dynamics do you regard as having great impact?

Kristy: Where do we start? I think there was a great study back in 2016 that I call out often because I think it’s still quite relevant. It came out of the UK. It was the Women in Finance Charter. It was entitled Empowering Productivity, harnessing the Talents of Women in Financial Services. It called on our industry to do three things: first, for each of our organisations to develop a policy, set targets, measure and monitor and report on the progress annually and publicly; secondly, to appoint a senior executive in our organisations to be responsible for developing and promoting that policy; and, thirdly, to tie the compensation of the leadership people to the success of those policies. I think that’s really, really compelling way that we can actually advance that gender agenda.

To Danielle’s point earlier, we’ve got three levels. We’ve got national policies. We’ve got corporate policies. But we have corporate culture. We need our male allies and our senior leaders to help us drive the corporate policies down into the fabric of the corporate culture. Parental leave is just a really good example of that.

We’ve got, I say, enlightened leaders like Sanjeev, like Danielle, who really have a huge opportunity to change our corporate culture, to be more supportive and welcoming for women. These opportunities will benefit our shareholders, will benefit our clients, will benefit our employees because we have nothing to lose. We’ve got so many opportunities. We can’t afford to ignore this gender agenda. For our children, our children’s children, it’s just a great opportunity to really promote that gender agenda.

Julia: Phenomenal. Here, you talk about charters. We’ve heard about pledges. We’ve also heard about measurements as well. There’s definitely a thread that runs through all of this. Again, what gets measured gets done. But also, there’s so much social impact within organisations in terms of contributions to culture as well as the undeniable commercial gains that are on the table as well. Danielle, I’d love to come to you about anything we’ve not talked about yet that you particularly pay attention to and like to bring into the conversation.

Danielle: To reflect just on Sanjeev’s comments around male allyship, I think where I have seen male allyship done very, very well requires men not to be silent. Have a voice. Drive active conversation. You look at the latest statistics from the Asia Development Bank. More and more women are getting into STEM education. How can men wrap around that? How do we harness the desire, the passion that’s coming from our up-and-coming talent, whatever gender, but specifically for females here?

I love the point that you made there, Julia, about the commercial gains. Now, there’s so much research that talks about the additional GDP that would be added if actually women were represented equally in the workplace as men. The latest statistics say that, actually, if we could bring more women to be equally represented in the workforce, that would drive an extra 26% in GDP. That is huge.

I think the real remarkable point on that for me is we’re moving beyond the expectations that a headcount is a headcount. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, as long as you’re in seat. Then, that adds to GDP, and actually more and more recognition for the differences, the unique value that females bring to the workforce, and the economic and commercial gain that comes with that.

Julia: I love that. 26%. I mean, let’s just sit with that for a second. 26%. Well, listen. Let’s go into some closing thoughts. It’s a question I ask all our guests on the podcast, which is, as we navigate, arguably, very challenging and interesting, it’s always interesting times, but interesting economic, social, and business climate. There is a real risk that diversity equity inclusion falls down the corporate agenda. I would love to hear your compelling reasons why it absolutely must stay high on the corporate agenda. Sanjeev, can I come to you first of all?

Sanjeev: First and foremost, the economic case. The business case for diversity, equity, and inclusion, t’s un-refutable. I think it’s imperative that for every organisation, every team leader, every team, that you try and bring about a team that represents the community, but also everybody feels comfortable to be who they are because that’s the time when everybody can perform much higher. I also wanted to add to what Kristy said that I think if you think about most of the leadership teams, if anywhere between 90% to 70% of the leadership team is men, men do have a very high degree of responsibility to ensure that they are the ones who are driving much more of that dialogue because this is not going to happen in a vacuum. It cannot be echo chambers of people just talking about themselves. And hence, I do encourage more and more of the male allies to try and promote and lean into that conversation, not to be a bystander, like Danielle said.

I think it’s also imperative for people to understand that greater inclusion for women does not lead to greater exclusion of men. That’s where I think it has to be very based on merit, ensuring that the playing field is as level as can be, recognising our own biases. Who do we turn to in a meeting to ask to take notes? Who do we turn to arrange for catering? Who do we turn to when there’s a big strategic project that’s coming up? We have to check our own biases sometimes and ensure there’s equitable access to everyone. We are not carrying forward a lot of those habits that have been formed over a long, long period of time.

Julia: Just picking up on one remark there. It’s not a zero-sum game when there’s 26% to be gained. Let’s put it that way. Danielle, come on. Talk to us about your compelling reason why this absolutely must remain high.

Danielle: My personal reflections on this are that we talk a lot about the glass ceiling. Therefore, the corporate agenda has a huge part to play in breaking that. But I actually think it’s earlier than that. I think the rungs in the ladder are broken. We collectively need to do more earlier in people’s careers to stop women from being left behind to recognise that life takes turns and tolls. That’s okay. It doesn’t mean that you can’t come back and rise quickly through the ranks. How do we make sure that earlier on in the career of a woman, they do not get lost and they have the support network around them that they need?

I was in India recently talking to a group of colleagues. Someone in the audience said, “I’m at a point in my career where I’m deciding whether or not to have children. I worry that it’s going to limit my career or my future.” That makes me very sad because your job should never be the reason that you choose whether to or not to have children. There’s a corporate responsibility. There’s a human responsibility there around how do we adapt, how do we stay flexible, how do we recognise that the future is not command and control. It is servant leadership. It is adaptability. It is the ability to respond. Being a woman myself, I’m a firm believer that a woman can do a very, very good job at that.

Julia: I think we’re all firm believers in that truth, for sure. It returns to the point that you were making, Kristy, which we talk about all the time on the podcast, about enlightened leadership. Your thoughts as well, your compelling reason why, in these tough and interesting economic times, this must not fall off the agenda.

Kristy: I think, at this point, we can’t afford not to focus on this gender agenda. The stakes are too high. The competitive possessions, our competitors are starting to realise the huge advantages when it comes to employee engagement, when it comes to employee empowerment, when it comes to our competitive possessions, even companies with more women in senior leadership have been proven to actually file more patents. We are more innovative. We are better at managing risk if we have more women in leadership roles. We simply can’t afford to ignore this agenda any longer.

To Danielle’s point, it’s not just for our competitive positions. It’s for our humanity. It’s for all of the women in our cultures and in our organisations who also benefit. It drives the whole economy. So many opportunities. We need our enlightened leaders, both men and women, to help us drive that gender agenda.

Julia: What a way to see out the show. I mean, we have covered an extraordinary amount in really very short order. I’d like to invite this wonderful audience, live at the Women in Payments Symposium in Singapore, to join me in thanking our phenomenal panellists today, Danielle, Sanjeev, and Kristy. Thank you very much indeed. Very good. Yes, indeed, ladies and gentlemen, we have been recording live at the Women in Payments Symposium in Singapore in October 2023. I’ve been Julia Streets. Thank you as always for listening, and until next time, goodbye.

Cynthia:  This episode of DiverCity Podcast was produced by Roshan Roberts on behalf of Julia Streets Productions. You can find out more about the guests from this week’s show on our website. That’s www.divercitypodcast.com. That’s DiverCity with a C and not an S. Whilst you are there, you can also sign up to our newsletter for all our latest updates. All our episodes are available in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favourite podcast app. If you enjoy DiverCity Podcast, remember to share on social media and give us a rating or review. Finally, our Twitter handle is @DiverCityPod. Thanks for listening.