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Career in Finance


									            WOMEN’S CAREER IN FINANCE

It is a very great pleasure for me to be here this afternoon. I
would like to thank Haifa al-Kaylani for asking me to address
this distinguished audience. I would also like to congratulate
Haifa and her colleagues most warmly on the enormous success
of this organisation, Arab International Women’s Forum: I was
privileged to know of its inception some years ago and have
watched it grow from strength to strength;       it is indeed a
remarkable achievement.

This afternoon I have agreed to say a few words about women’s
career in finance, based on my own experiences. I came from a
culture where women were not expected to have careers – at
least not when I was young. But in the last forty years much has
changed even in Japan and today almost all young women
choose to work and aspire to reach senior positions in their
chosen professions. In the Arab world women have had perhaps
even more defined positions in society. But my impression is
that the Arab world has always been far more enlightened about
women’s roles in society than in the Orient or in the West.
Certainly I have encountered many able and distinguished
women counterparts in my business relationships in the Middle
East. Arab Islamic law dating from the Mohammed laid down
strict inheritance rights of widows for example. In Britain we

did not have comparable protection until just until a century ago.
Until the ‘Married Women’s Property Act in the 1890’s’ all her
property became the property of her husband.

I should tell you first very briefly about my own career. My
commercial life began in 1971 when I joined a firm of
stockbrokers called Vickers da Costa in the City of London.
Before that I worked for independent economic policy institutes
and at the World Bank. I was specialist on international trade
policy issues and wrote two books and many articles on this
subject.   This experience gave me a basic understanding of
issues in international economic integration and workings of the
market mechanism. In 1974 I moved to what was then the
largest firm of London stockbrokers, James Capel & Co. I spent
fifteen years there, being involved in advising institutional
clients and numerous central banks including those in the
Middle East on their management of foreign exchange reserves.
I became a Partner of the firm and one of very few women
Member of the Stock Exchange. I then worked for a large
Japanese investment bank, Nikko Securities, to run their
business in worldwide equities and corporate finance. I was
Vice Chairman of the firm in London. In 1999 I became senior
adviser at Lazards, the well known international investment
banks with which I still maintain my association. At the same
time I became Chief Executive of the World Gold Council, the

association of the world’s large gold mining companies and the
marketing arm of the gold industry. Many of you come from
cultures where gold is held in high esteem both as money and as
ornament, and will understand the role of organisations such as
the World Gold Council. Last year when I left the World Gold
Council I began a slightly different phase in my career, taking
on a number of non-executive directorships. Currently I sit on
the Board of three public companies in the financial services
sector and one international industrial company which is AB
VOLVO of Sweden. I also advise a major German company in
the consumer sector, METRO, on its expansion in Asia and a
Greek retail bank.

Having spent virtually all my career in the financial world and
most particularly in investment, my reference points inevitably
remain in that world. I have seen manifold changes in the
financial sector over a thirty year period. And that is the first
point I wish to make in this talk: though the fundamental tools
of analysis and value judgements have necessarily remained the
same the operational environment in the sector has changed
almost beyond recognition. There are three things I should like
to highlight in this context. First, the giant strides made in
technological   innovation      have   made    the        speed   of
communication        and   therefore the   volume    of    available
information infinitely greater. Today executives operating in

the financial sector must be far more adept at selecting
information than just being able to source them.       Secondly,
capital market liberalisation and the consequent progress of
international integration of markets have made the financial
sector ever more competitive. The regulatory response to this
has been to make it a more complex world to operate in. And
thirdly it is fair to say that there is a greater diversity of
participants in this sector with a greater number of women
executives, and also with interest in growing number of
emerging markets becoming the norm a greater diversity of
nationality of participants is also notable.

I should now like to say a few words on what I think this means
for women’s career in finance. There have been many women
in senior positions in finance and this is nothing now. I came
into this world admittedly for economic necessity and by
chance. I did not plan my career but it happened by coincidence
and by and large luck played a good part. Even in the 1970’s,
some quarter of a century ago, there was a number of senior
women counterparts even in the Middle East. But as markets
expanded there has been a corresponding increase in the number
of opportunities and hugely increased number of women have
entered this industry in all parts of the world including in such
male chauvinist countries as Japan.

Being a woman in the man’s world is both an advantage and a
disadvantage. I myself have not been particularly conscious of
the fact that I am a woman in the work place and certainly never
felt that I have been discriminated against. But looking back I
think it has been an advantage because people remembered me
for being in the minority. Disadvantages are obvious: women
still have children and want to look after them and to keep a
home.    Combining intensely competitive work commitments
and a happy home life can be taxing on career women’s time.
With increasingly international mode of operations in the
financial sector frequent overseas travel and working through
the night and weekends are by now normal demands on a
financial sector executive. As you become more senior in the
organisation these demands increase.

According to a recent survey in the United States (National
Parenting Association) 42% of female corporate executives aged
41-55 and 49% of women earning more than $100,000 p.a. are
childless. Though this survey was not confined to the financial
sector, I suspect the proportion may be higher in some segments
of the financial services than others. There are some areas such
as asset management or research where the time management
could be easier for women than say in corporate finance or
institutional stock broking.

I said earlier that a very many more women are working in the
financial sector today than twenty years ago. But how many of
them will reach senior management positions? In the US only 6
of the CEO’s of the Fortune 500 are women.        There are now
twice as many women in senior management positions in large
American companies as there were in 1995;         but they still
represent only 16% of such positions.      The percentages are
certain to be lower in the financial sector. There is a lot of
debate going on now why this is so. One explanation that has
been   suggested   is   that   men   are   more   ‘competitive’,
competitively minded than women are.

Another survey result showed that men negotiate for higher
salaries much more readily than women.         Women tend to
assume that working hard and doing a good job will earn them
advancement while men are more ready to negotiate for such
advancement. And when they do men are likely to be better
accepted for negotiating than women for whatever reason.

‘Women in the workplace’ is a topic that has become somewhat
fashionable amongst those who argue for greater diversity in
corporate life. My own experience suggests, though as I said
earlier mine was in a way in a somewhat different world, that it
would be a mistake to make it into a women’s rights campaign.
Women have, I venture to suggest, some different qualities to

men equally valuable in the business world – such as better
ability to cross cultures, to be more meticulous, to be able to
provide different dimensions and perspectives.           Women
naturally provide a better balance in corporate life, even in the
financial world. Proceed with courage and charm – men do!

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak.


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