International Women’s Day marks an important opportunity to highlight the role of women from a social, economic, cultural and political perspective. It’s also a chance to raise awareness of female equality and celebrate women’s achievements in all walks of life.
At SAF, we’re proud to say that 50% of our board of directors are female, and we thought International Women’s Day is a fantastic opportunity to sit down with our Managing Director, Jane Tabiner, and Finance Director, Amanda Boote to celebrate their achievements.
We sat down and chatted to the pair about what it’s like to be a woman within the finance sector, and which women have inspired them over the years.
How do you feel about being a woman working within the finance sector?
Jane: The senior end of the finance sector can be seen as quite male-centric, so it’s great to have recognition of the values and skills that I, as a female, can bring to the table. As MD, I am involved in every part of the business, so it certainly helps to bring some balance to sometimes challenging situations.
Having a teenage daughter myself, it’s incredibly important to me to show her that females can be leaders and strive to achieve their dreams and ambitions, but it’s important to realise what it is you want, make it clear and work hard. For me, we’ve got the balance at SAF right with 50% of our board being female; I hope everyone working at SAF knows that their voice is valued, and their opinions sought, irrelevant of gender.
Amanda: In comparison to other industries, it could be argued that finance has struggled to keep up in terms of gender equality. However, I can honestly say that throughout my career, I have never been made to feel inferior to my male colleagues. Undoubtedly, this is a testament to the great companies I have worked for, particularly SAF.
Despite finance and accountancy typically being viewed as a male-dominated sector, it is first and foremost a people-first profession. Yes, we work closely with figures and sums, but a large part of my job is spent explaining and educating others on those figures and subsequent decisions. To do this well, an individual needs empathy, logic, a degree of patience and superb interpersonal skills – all skills which are traditionally associated with women. It goes to show that balance is key within any sector.
Research by the FCA has shown that women only make up 17% of senior roles in the finance industry – how do you feel about this and do you think that the female role within the sector has changed over the past ten years?
Jane: If I’m honest, this figure doesn’t surprise me. Certainly, in some larger corporates where I have worked, the majority of directors were (and still are) male. However, at SAF not only is our board 50/50 but within the wider team, we are actually female-dominated…so the boys best watch out!
Amanda: Echoing Jane’s thoughts, it doesn’t seem to have changed a great deal in the past decade or so, which is a real shame. That being said, I do think that we need to view effective collaboration as teamwork rather than a battle of the sexes; individuals have their own insights and values to bring to the table and that should be the only way to judge a person on, the perceived worth of their input.
What advice would you give to women looking to progress within the finance sector?
Jane: My advice is pretty simple; have a clear goal, work hard and be objective. Have a mentor, if possible and make sure you can communicate on all levels and don’t be afraid to have your voice heard by those more ‘senior’ than you and ask questions, you can never ask enough questions.
Amanda: Just GO for it! It’s important to keep an open mind and pick a company that will help you achieve your goals and give you plenty of opportunities to reach them. Embrace all opportunities that come your way and stay focused on your goals and why you started in the first place. With hard work and determination, nothing can stop you.
Who are some female figures who have inspired you, both personally and professionally?
Jane: Without a doubt, my mum has been a huge inspiration to me. She found herself as a single parent in the 1980s with two children to raise in a new area. She worked long hours to make sure my brother and I had all we needed – she is certainly a testament to how far hard work and determination can take you.
Professionally, I have always admired barrister turned restauranteur, Nisha Katona, founder of Mowgli. She is a brilliant example of someone with an established, successful professional career who followed her passions and made yet another great success through her restaurant empire. To have that vision and drive is admirable.
Amanda: Honestly, there are too many to mention. Professionally, I’ve certainly been inspired by the work ethic of women like Susie Ma, who is a skincare entrepreneur. She started her career selling her products at a local market to help pay the bills, now she is the founder of one of the UK’s fastest-growing companies, Tropic Skincare. She shows that strength in character and tenacity proves that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
Personally, as with Jane, my mum is an inspiration to me every day. She has been a hugely positive role model to my sisters and me, empowering us to always believe in ourselves and what we’re capable of achieving.