Based in London, Beatriz Rufo was among a selection of individuals nominated by the Santander’s diversity and inclusion network and was then singled out by senior management. We share here why she’s on the list of role models being celebrated by Women in Banking & Finance.
Eight years ago as Beatriz Rufo moved to London to support her career ambitions, but it was in 2018 that she actively expanded her ambitions to helping more women achieve career success, as she took on the additional responsibilities and helped found a diversity and inclusion network for the UK corporate and investment banking division of the international financial services group.
Together with two colleagues, Beatriz had realised the level of change needed to support better diversity and inclusion. The three then put their heads together and developed and presented a plan to the UK board. The response was loud and clear: the management team was fully supportive. Quickly the three started to roll out their ambitious plans, which included setting up a steering committee, and developing the pre-agreed list of specific initiatives, all of them business and HR-driven, aiming to improve performance and the company’s culture via diversity and inclusion.
Beatriz recalls their biggest challenge was that, despite the project benefiting from wide support, the initiative was new to everyone involved. No-one had ever set up a similar network before and the project was demanding considerably more resources than had been expected given the scale and scope of the founders’ ambitions. There soon followed a positive surprise, however, when the plans were internally advertised through a call for volunteers. The trio received an overwhelming number of responses from colleagues – across all levels of the organisation – who were very keen to put themselves forward and spend time making the network a reality.
Since then the network has expanded – both in terms of the number of colleagues impacted and the number of initiatives. The network’s working group consists of between eight and ten steering committee members – which include individuals who sit on the company’s executive committee – as well as 10-15 contributors to the various specific initiatives planned, plus around 40 supporting volunteers.
Some of the activities begun quickly became ‘business as usual’ (such as breakfast gatherings, events, and a bi-monthly newsletter, etc.), but others required a more strategic approach, particularly those organised around three pillars of Retaining Talent, Hiring and Awareness – the last of which was developed and led by Beatriz.
Her focus on awareness stems from her appreciation that success can only be supported through the engagement of men as partners. To achieve this, Beatriz has personally taken charge of over 22 group sessions for internal staff to promote diversity and inclusion in the organisation, bringing in inspirational external/internal speakers and role models to help raise awareness further.
On highlighting the importance of awareness, Beatriz flagged: “Change can only be brought about when both senior leadership and employees are aligned in recognising the imperfections of our current working environments. A male-dominated industry, such as finance, is exposed to unconscious bias. This needs to be addressed in a collaborative manner. It takes vision and a certain level of altruism for a male-led leadership to target investments in women given, eventually, some of those women will take their seats at the table.”
Other successes for Beatriz have included: the development of a multi-strand project focused on diversity along the whole employee lifecycle, engaging different teams, roles and pay grades across the UK division; the establishment of diversity and inclusion KPIs, which are regularly presented to the UK board; and the involvement of business leaders who help constantly cascade the key messages underpinning the programmes, ensuring continued success.
Beatriz’s most tangible successes have been a clear improvement in hiring male/female ratios and the benchmarking exercises. The better ratios are attributed to the partnership with a returnship programme firm, the popularity of diversity and inclusion sessions and more dynamic management of female careers now that any future leaders have formal mentoring in place or are involved in reverse mentoring. The benchmarking exercise has enabled to network to set out concrete strategic plans and link the company’s investment in the programme to tangible targets and results.
Aside from the increasing workload due to the network and its development, Beatriz’s business responsibilities have grown too and, in 2020, she was promoted to the role of Deputy Head of the UK Multinationals Team. On top of her duties and projects at work, Beatriz also has a 4-year old son and is finalising a 15-month virtual Global Master in Finance qualification at the IE Business School in Madrid.
Women in Banking & Finance is particularly delighted to see Beatriz recognised by Santander since it was through her than the division signed up to become an institutional member.