Off the back of recent Deloitte Insights research into female representation in the financial services industry across the world, this article is the second in a series about women in leadership in the New Zealand banking and insurance industries. While Oceania is leading in regard to female representation in senior positions, there is still a way to go yet. This series explores the perspectives of women in executive roles in the New Zealand banking and insurance industries about developing and supporting the workforce experience and strategies that can be employed to foster upwards mobility for upcoming talent. We delve into diversity, equity and inclusion and consider how to facilitate a positive and rewarding working experience for all.
Kate Skinner has always loved economics. From school through to university, economics and finance formed a core part of her education. It was that deep interest in the economy that led her into the banking industry, initially with the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, then at ASB as an economist and roles in strategy. But Kate says that although she’s had multiple roles in banking, pursuing a career in the industry was never an active choice. It was the most logical path to get a front row seat to what’s happening in the economy.
Smart choices have made possible a successful career in senior management positions at ASB and BNZ. Seeking out the newest growth areas and extending on a core skillset throughout her career, along with the journey of collecting responsibilities across successive roles, have led to Kate’s current position as Executive, Data, Analytics and Strategy at BNZ.
Undoubtedly, the business acumen gained from a career of taking on new challenges is one of the primary reasons for Kate’s success. But often success isn’t achieved alone. It’s the support and advocacy from key sponsors that can help to move the needle.
Kate acknowledges the support from two individuals in particular who gave the confidence boost to back herself and put herself forward for new roles. One provided valued encouragement and the other created job opportunities specifically for Kate. Both equally impactful and each illustrating the variety of ways in which advocacy and sponsorship can be demonstrated.
Paying it forward
Kate refers to the “permission to believe” from her sponsors and support network when taking the next career steps. That permission to believe reinforced by New Zealand’s long history of women in leadership roles, specifically as Prime Minister and Chief Justice of New Zealand. “It’s the visibility of it. We’ve had a lot of role models so I never grew up thinking that I couldn’t be what I wanted to be,” says Kate.
It’s a familiar narrative – if you can see it, you can be it, which is further highlighted in recent Deloitte Insights research that projects Oceania’s share of women in ‘next generation’ leadership positions will reach 36.9% by 2030 – higher than any other region.
“I try to pay forward what others have done for me,” says Kate, as she speaks of being a mentor and a sponsor for young women and the next generation of female leaders at varying points of their career. “From a diversity and inclusion perspective, being able to see yourself in the leadership team of a company becomes really important and now we need to continue to do more from a broader agenda, not just a gender one”.
Kate acknowledges that when assembling a team, the most important factor is spotting future talent, fostering them, and creating opportunities to ensure that teams have a broad mix of perspectives. To achieve that, Kate believes that good hiring practices should include a diverse interview panel.
Equally, flexibility should be considered to support people stepping up to take on bigger roles, specifically those with family circumstances that necessitate flexible hours. Kate reflects that “ensuring flex in an organisation helps to create the opportunities for diversity to come through." Leaders should facilitate a culture where there can be an open dialogue about hybrid working and work locations, whilst also striving to strike a balance to build back a sense of team and culture in the office as well.
Our research indicates that there is a cascading impact of senior female leaders beyond representation in leadership positions. This certainly seems to be the case with Kate and the culture she is building as a senior leader at BNZ. When Kate talks about the resilience that is essential in senior leadership roles, she gives it a much more human spin noting “the ability to recharge and switch off, to give yourself permission during the day to learn new things is what fills my tank back up”. Following a tough couple of years we’re sure Kate’s team are thankful for her role modelling of this behaviour.