Today we are taking a moment to recognise and celebrate the exceptional women who work at BOQ. At BOQ Village in Brisbane, BOQ State office in Sydney and across our branches nation-wide, we will be celebrating International Women’s Day.
This week we took a moment to chat to two of these exceptional women, Fiona Harding and Ellen Cox from BOQ Village in Brisbane, who shared their career secrets and advice and discussed gender equality in the workplace.
Fiona Harding, General Manager, Legal – Retail and Resolution Advisory (FH)
Ellen Cox, Chief Financial Officer – Enterprise Solutions & Transformation (EC)
When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
FH: At school I wanted to be a violinist, but a family friend convinced me to go into law. I changed my degree at the very last minute and haven’t looked back since.
EC: Funnily enough I used to say, “never an accountant” and here I am!
What do you think is the biggest issue facing women in the workplace today?
FH: I think equal pay is a massive issue. It is not particularly helpful to tell women they have been “benchmarked” unless you can provide assurance that they have been benchmarked against their male peers who have received a comparative grading. Equal pay will allow women to afford extras like childcare, which in turn allows them to then focus on their careers.
EC: In a corporate environment, I would like to see organisations encouraging women to have a voice at the table (at all levels) and the courage to lean-in to opportunities or that next role and lastly, corporate cultures that support flexibility tailored to the individual.
Do you think BOQ is actively working towards gender equality in the workplace?
FH: I think BOQ does a fantastic job on gender equality but, industry wide, I think it is important to set targets at the top end. I would like to see more women in the Executive Committee level revenue generating roles rather than just the areas that support revenue generation.
EC: Yes, I see BOQs intentions play out in a number of scenarios across the business, and this has been evident for some time.
What’s the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome in your career?
FH: It may sound odd but I’ve never found anything to be a hurdle. Although, I would say that at the time I finished University (in Adelaide) I was asked (more than once) in interviews at law firms why I chose the school I went to (a good State school). There appeared to be a prejudice toward private schooling in Adelaide – but I found it hard to understand why that mattered and not just the grades. Thankfully, this has changed a lot since.
EC: Personally and professionally accepting that, once you have a family, it is OK not to be capable of doing everything 120% and on-time. For those of us who appreciate detail and order, you will understand how much of a challenge this was for me!
What advice would you give young women heading into the financial services industry or another corporate workplace?
FH: I think there are huge opportunities for women in these arenas, but opportunities won’t come to you – you have to set goals and constantly strive to achieve these.
EC: Have the courage to back yourself – lean-in to that challenge or take up that opportunity. Don’t wait for someone to notice and offer you the opportunity that you seek from afar or that promotion that you deserve. Also, always find those people within your network whom you can use as sounding boards and can be relied upon to provide constructive criticism (even when you don’t want to hear it!). These people will also become your advocates!
Who is your biggest influence / who inspires you the most and why?
FH: Singtel’s Chief Executive Chua Sock Koong (who has been described as one of Asia’s most powerful women) because throughout her career she has excelled in traditionally male dominated roles and also has a family.
EC: Personally, without a doubt it is my mother and sisters. I am absolutely sure I did not agree with this statement in the first 25 years of my life! Professionally, I have acquired a number of informal mentors over my time – they may not actually know to be honest – but they have all been slightly more senior than me and the types of colleagues with whom I have been able to have open and frank conversations with about challenges or been able to utilise as sounding boards. Each of them has been an invaluable influence in my career. Globally, and more on the theme of women in the workplace – Michelle Obama – as first lady she assumed a role that could have remained standing behind the President but instead totally owned it and used the power of that position to create a platform for issues that needed to be heard, with such grace & decorum.
Any outstanding achievements or highlights you would like to share?
EC: Memorable moments in my career have come from the numerous times that I have been part of a project team. One goal, one team – it’s pretty special, and if you have never had the opportunity to take part in one during your career then I highly recommend it. I have made long lasting friendships off the back of those projects, broadened my skill base and exposure to other areas of business and had great fun doing it.
Thank you to Fiona and Ellen for sharing your experiences as women in the banking and finance industry.