Q+A: WERKIN with Elizabeth Martine
WERKIN organised a virtual Ask-Me-Anything call featuring Elizabeth as part of WERKIN’s partnership with WIBF. Elizabeth shared her advice on flexible working, pay negotiation, and policies that work in recruiting, promoting, and retaining more women within financial services.
Elizabeth Martine: I started my career in finance through a two-year apprenticeship, which was a good intro for me. I moved to a hedge fund for a year in operations and then, more recently I’ve been at Barclays. I’ve moved roles a few times in the last six years at Barclays, and in that time, I’ve had two babies, now one and two. A lot of balancing work and my life, and also career progression in that time.
Outside of my day job, I like to get involved with diversity and inclusion with Women in Banking and Finance, and also work with the initiatives within Barclays, specifically around gender and multi-generational work streams.
WERKIN: It sounds like you’ve managed a lot as you’ve progressed in your career. How have you managed personal transitions like having children?
EM: Even before I had children, I used flexible working. It’s almost seen in the industry as something that’s used for females only; that it’s tied to child care. Flexible working helped me balance my professional and personal obligations, like doctors and dentist appointments. It also meant that I didn’t have to commute, and so I could work longer hours when needed. Or I could even go out for a walk at lunch or collect deliveries.
Now I work from home between one and three days a week, and that’s really helped me to balance my requirements outside of work. But also means that I don’t have to spend the hour commuting every single day. I can choose how I use that time, spending it with my family or catching up on work. When I was younger, I used to put really long hours in and probably didn’t realise that if you have to keep to a nine to five, you can be a lot more effective and efficient. I’ve had to be more focused in my day job and rather than spending a lot of time at my desk without necessarily getting more done.
WERKIN: What are some of the tips you’ve learned for flexible working?
EM: Firstly, it’s definitely about communication. I’ve always been quite open with communicating what I need and what works for me. It’s important to keep those lines of communication open so I’m still accessible if I’m working from home. It’s also important to create boundaries around working regular hours from home. Secondly, be available, make sure that your manager is aware of what you’re doing, and where you are. As long as I get what I need to get done, then that’s okay. In my current role, I’m accountable to my stakeholders, but I also have my own work to manage and as long as that’s completed, there’s no micromanaging to know where I am at every moment of the day.
WERKIN: So a balance of setting boundaries, and open communication.
EM: Yes, and it works differently for every person and for every business, and every line manager you have. I’ve had line managers previously who haven’t even wanted me to work from home or understood what it meant. They thought it means you’re taking a day off and not really doing any work! It’s important to educate people about what the benefits are.
WERKIN: There are a lot of initiatives to get women and girls into STEM-based careers. What inspired you to pursue a STEM career? With STEM, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, particularly mathematics applies to a career in finance.
EM: My route was a bit of an unusual one. I went to university because I thought that was what I was supposed to do. And then after about a year, I decided that wasn’t for me. I’d liked economics and I decided that an apprenticeship suited me better than a degree. I applied for an apprenticeship at Fidelity. Apprenticeships weren’t something that were well-publicised or well-known as an alternative to a degree.
When I was younger, I joked that I wanted to be a hairdresser or a barrister. Neither of those came to pass, but I had found something that interested me. The apprenticeship really opened my eyes. It was 50-50 female-male intake, and I was within a smaller group with lots of female senior role models and that made me feel like there was a path to progress. I didn’t feel like I was the only female in the room even when I was quite young.
Even through my career after the apprenticeship, I always tried to find those female sponsors, female mentors, and men as well who’ve become my mentors. It’s really important that when we’re asking young girls to become part of the STEM environment, that we’re creating senior role models. In banking, there aren’t always visible positive female role models, but there is Helena Morrissey, Inga Beale and many others. Positive role models benefit up and coming women who deserve a place at the table, because these role models help them to see themselves there.
It’s about identifying why certain groups are leaving banking and finding ways to keep them. There’s a lot of myths around why women leave e.g. for childcare when actually, it can be to do with the environment and policies that are unfriendly towards those with caring responsibilities.
With recruitment, there are now firms that specifically recruit women. There has long been the excuse that recruiters can’t find enough women to fill certain roles. There are, there just might be unique barriers for entry into a system that was not set up for diverse groups of people. Returnership programs for returning parents are an example of programs to support people even as their personal situations change. Flexible working has to be rolled out, but it is important for men as much as women for equal participation inside and outside of the office.
I’m aware of firms that now offer six months of parental leave. We need to encourage men to take available paternity leave as well so that responsibilities can be shared inside and outside the office.
It’s important to have policies not just around children, but also around development and promotion of women inside the organisation; supporting your key talent when they’re younger and not just when they’re at a managing director position. It should be about looking at graduates, apprentices, women who are coming into the start of their careers and making sure they’re supported, and they don’t drop off, as many of them do.
It’s also not necessarily just about children but taking time out of work to care for relatives. Given that everyone is living longer now, and we’re going to be working for a long portion of our lives, it’s important that companies, and the government support policies that allow people to continue their careers even as they make different personal decisions.
WERKIN: How did mentoring help you in your career? Any tips for someone being mentored?
EM: When I was on the apprenticeship scheme, we were each given mentors. I don’t really think I knew what one was then, to be honest. I had a man and a woman, which is a good dynamic to have. Mentors are really important because they give you someone to bounce ideas off, and if they’re not in your reporting line, then it’s someone to get independent advice from.
As a mentee, it’s important to have that first conversation, to outline what you want from that relationship, and appreciate that to have a good mentor relationship, it shouldn’t go on forever. They should have a purpose. And then once you reached that purpose, once you’ve achieved what you wanted to achieve, then they stop. I’ve kept a few of my mentor relationship, although I meet them less frequently and usually when I have a specific problem they can help with.
My mentor really helped me, with getting roles and moving internally, but also getting roles outside, or giving you exposure to people. Access to a good mentor is access to their network. Once you’ve built up trust, it’s important to go back to your original objectives and see whether you’ve achieved those so that the relationship doesn’t go stale and still has its purpose.
WERKIN: You’ve mentioned the importance of both mentors and sponsors. What is the difference? What role does sponsorship play in your career?
EM: Mentors for me, are people who I’ve gone to with a problem, or have given me guidance as I pursue a promotion. Sponsors use their position to promote you. They can speak positively of you when you’re not in the room. They’re the people who might be on your promotion board, or they might be the person who decides your bonus. They might be the person who is the hiring manager for something that you’re pursuing.
One of my first mentors was someone I met while ‘speed networking’. I followed up and met her for a coffee and asked advice about moving up to the next position. Six months later, a role I was interested in opened up and she asked me to put my name forward. After a few tough interviews, I got that role. She became someone very senior in my area of the bank and her role also shifted to become more of a sponsor, than a mentor. She became that person who put me forward for certain projects or put me in front of certain stakeholders.
There is a route for someone to progress from a mentor to a sponsor. If you can have that relationship, and perhaps they’re in the area that you want. I think the sponsor is the person who talks about you in a positive light when you’re not necessarily there.
WERKIN: As the UK considers gender pay gap reporting, do you have any advice for anyone as they prepare for conversations about promotions or pay raises at work?
EM: About pay rises, you need to understand what your market worth is, asking your line manager or HR business partner. I meet with a recruiter at least every six months, and not necessarily because I want to leave my job, but because then I know what is out there in the market in terms of jobs. What would I get in the market and am I paid the right amount? That’s number one. It’s also really important to find out that you’re not getting paid enough, so that you ask for it, and not wait until the end of the year or the end of the cycle.
You have to be upfront when you put your objectives together with your boss to say, “I earn this, but should be earning this.” Sometimes hands are tied, sometimes that’s not possible. Ultimately you should get paid what you believe or what your market value is. If you don’t, then you have to either move jobs, whether that’s internally or externally, or make a plan. A pay negotiations specialist once said, “if it doesn’t make you feel sick when you’re asking for the money, then you haven’t asked for enough.” You should always aim for more. Know your market worth; make sure that you get your market worth. Having clear objectives, knowing that if you meet those objectives, you should get what you believe you deserve.
For promotions, it’s important to see what the expectation is at that next level. Promotion is around understanding where you are, and what the gap is to get to the next level, and just apply for it. If you think you can do it, or even if you can only do half of it or you can only do 60 percent of it, apply for it. There’s a statistic that says men apply to jobs for which they meet 60 percent of requirements, while women only apply for jobs for which they meet 100 percent of requirements. You can learn on the job, and that’s okay.
WERKIN: What do you think about the broader conversation of the UK’s gender pay gap?
EM: There’s definitely more focus, more understanding. Whereas last year, people thought that gender pay gap was where men and women in the same role were getting paid differently, now more understand that equal pay is a legal right, and it’s discriminatory not to pay men and women for the same job, in the same role, the same experience the same amount.
It is around how many females versus men you have in those high-paying senior positions, and the different quartiles. There’s much more understanding in the industry. I don’t think there’s been that much change year on year. Banks are a bit slow to be starting, although they have been aware of it for quite a while. These things will take time, and it’s about making those fundamental changes to the way that we hire, recruit, and retain people within the bank and promote them.
The industry has a way to go to address the gender pay gap. Some businesses have been more forceful in terms of putting specific targets around the hiring of women or the retention of women. I’m aware of one bank where if a senior woman leaves, they fill that role with only a woman. We spoke earlier about different ways to get more women to the table, or keep women in senior positions and promote more women. Flexible working, having that work life balance, and making sure that you get men on board as well, and supporting men to have flexible working comes together to close the gender pay gap. Why should we have that equality? It’s much more around how we’re going to do it. The next couple of years, that’s really where the banks and financial services have to make a big difference.
WERKIN: If we could send a letter back in time, what advice would you give yourself after leaving university, or the apprenticeship?
EM: I’d probably say to myself to chill out a bit - I was quite impatient. Probably put more structured goals around what I wanted. I could be at times a bit impatient and sporadic. I left the apprenticeship to go to a hedge fund, because I thought that was a fantastic idea. But then I was made redundant within a year because it folded. If I could send the letter back, I’d probably say map out what you want to do, short term and long term goals, and work out what you need to get there. I would put together a personal development plan, and be more patient and structured.
WERKIN: So chill out and be patient. Of course, don’t chill out and be patient when it comes to the gender pay gap.
EM: You can still be passionate and make the changes you believe in. You can talk to lots of different people, and probably annoy a lot of people because you believe in it so passionately! But it’s important to be passionate to make the changes necessary.