WIBF is proud to have launched a regional branch in Belfast at the start of 2021. Co-Chair Clare McFarlane talks to us about her ambitions for for the branch and WIBF, her own career and how we can achieve gender parity.
Clare McFarlane
Clare McFarlane
Co-Chair of the WIBF Belfast Branch

Clare is currently Operations Manager at Platinum Financial, a bespoke financial planning firm in Belfast. Clare has 24 yrs experience in financial services, with the majority of her career spent at Santander in leadership roles. Passionate about colleague development and promoting excellence through learning and insight.

Clare is Co-Chair of the brand new Belfast branch of WIBF and we caught up with her to find out more.

How long have you been involved with WIBF for and what inspired you to co-chair the new Belfast branch?

I attended a WIBF event a few years back and was impressed by its commitment to connecting members to challenge and inspire women to achieve their potential and help create change in the financial services industry.

At the time, I was surprised to find that there wasn’t a Belfast branch. When I officially joined WIBF last year, I resolved to set up a Belfast branch, one where local women could benefit from all the great insight WIBF has to offer. Having led internal gender networks in previous organisations I was keen to take this to the next level, reach a wider group and collaborate with other women to establish a powerful network in Belfast, one where local women and local organisations can shine.

What ambitions do you have for the Belfast Branch?

We want the Belfast branch to be a network that connects and inspires women at all stages of their careers to learn, develop and grow, allowing them to achieve their full potential. We want to demonstrate the professionalism that you would expect from a WIBF network whilst having an informal approach that is both inviting and authentic. We want to be recognised as a network that is inclusive for all and where members feel comfortable to learn, be themselves, ask questions, have fun, share experiences and feel truly inspired to be the best that they can be. Focusing initially on learning and insight through Mentoring and Thought Leadership we look forward to adding real value to existing members and supporting new members in their development journey.

What are you most proud of in your career journey?

Having progressed through a large global bank to senior management roles, I am most proud of leading and supporting others to reach their potential by creating space for women to connect with each other, share my own career journey and personal experiences, learn from each other and be themselves. One moment for me that stands out was leading women from our internal diversity network to celebrate International Women’s Day in 2019 with a march from Belfast Titanic Quarter to City Hall. Joined by hundreds of other people from local organisations, it was an empowering moment and an opportunity to reflect and celebrate all the progress that has been made to date on gender issues.

You are passionate about colleague development and promoting excellence through learning and insight, can you tell us a bit more about that?

I am very fortunate to have worked with impactful female leaders, who advocated the sharing of ideas and encouraged learning from each other. Having had access to senior leaders in banking, I had the opportunity to interact both formally and informally with inspirational role models who encouraged and influenced me in my personal and professional development.

I am passionate about doing something similar where I can. Learning and insight is so powerful for giving people the practical tools to help them work on their areas of personal and professional development. Insight helps create credibility and elevates performance as well as building confidence and belief. That’s why we will concentrate on ensuring that our Mentoring, Personal Excellence and Thought Leadership programmes will be first amongst our key offerings for the Belfast branch.

What do you think most needs to change with Financial Services for true gender parity?

A key change is our collective mindset towards gender parity, its not just good for society its actually good for business. Whilst women represent a significant percentage of the workforce in financial services organisations, a very small percentage of those positions are at a senior level. There is lots we can do to support gender parity whether that’s providing mentoring and sponsorship, training and development, encouraging people to proactively create career paths or ensuring that policies and procedures complement the demands of the modern world.

However, a key change that is needed is the recognition that everyone must play their part for true gender parity. This is not the responsibility of someone else, it starts with all of us, its starts with me, it starts with you.

How was 2020 for you? What have you learnt about yourself during this difficult time?

2020 was a year of significant change and whilst there were challenges to overcome it was year of great learning and growth for me personally. I learnt that when things aren’t right, I am capable of making a change and that that feels empowering. The sense of being in control of my own destiny and creating the freedom to shape my future has been inspiring.

I have taken time to understand my core values and identified what environments and situations I really thrive in and what success now means to me in my career.

I have had both the challenge and the pleasure of supporting my two teenage boys through home schooling. It has been an amazing opportunity to re-connect with my boys and indulge in much more quality time together as a family than ever before.