When talking about female leadership in finance, A recent survey from Oliver Wyman points out that women represent just 20% of the financial sector worldwide. In the US, the percentage is higher on entry-level, but it drops to 19% when we look at the rate of women in leadership positions (C-level) within this industry.
We had a one-on-one with a client, Husqvarna LATAM’s CFO, Roberta Rosenburg, to dig deeper into women’s leadership in the financial industry. We discussed the shifting role of women in finance and learned more about the challenges of being a female CFO.
A multidisciplinary journey
We can’t say it often enough: the idea of a CFO being an expert bookkeeper is long gone. To become a successful Chief Financial Officer in 2020 you need to have a 360º overview of the business and a clear understanding of which processes of the company can be optimized.
Roberta started her career in a German company as a temporary administrative assistant for two months. “During this period, I did everything to stand out. My work was basically customer service for the sales department, so I learned how to use the system, make proposals and all the bureaucratic sales service. […] I stayed in the company for 13 years until I reached the title of Head of Finance.”
Roberta told us that during these 13 years, despite her strong bias towards the financial area, she never refused any kind of job. “I always accomplished everything I was given and today I can see that this was very good because it makes you have a broader vision of what the company really needs.”
Presence & female leadership
Numerous studies show that female presence in the job market, especially in leadership positions, is growing. It just takes a quick look around to realize that men still dominate the corporate environment – and in some sectors, this difference is even more evident.
When asked about the predominance of men in the financial sector, Roberta did not hesitate to share her vision: “I believe that not only the financial sector but all other sectors usually have many men”. She also told us a little about her personal journey and her experience in engineering companies. “When I started in my career, there weren’t many women leaders and until today, even though it’s a bit more common, we still have a lot of male leaders out there. I always worked in engineering companies, so being surrounded by men is a given, but this never stopped me from evolving. I can say that today we have many women in training, and this has been increasingly common in finance. They are equally capable as men and today they have more opportunities”.
An internal demand
Although the recognition of women in the labour market is growing, it is reasonable to say that there is still a long way to go. Some differences have a clearer impact and others affect us almost unconsciously.
Roberta raised a very interesting point when we talked about it. “As much as there are more women in the job market, I see that even today we need to prove ourselves more than men.” She further explained, “I don’t know if it is an external or internal demand of women themselves, but I see that we prepare ourselves more for our career, whether we’re talking about our education or amount of dedication. Maybe one day we will feel more relaxed, but it hasn’t happened yet”.
What are efficient CFOs prioritising?
Leading by example
To lead is not an easy task and is definitely not for everyone. When we approached this subject with Roberta, the word that came up most was “example”.
“Any leadership position is an example for other people, so when you become a leader you have to take care of the example you want to pass on to others. This is very important because the people who see you as an example start to copy your actions. Many times this manifests even in your way of dressing.”
The importance of having emotional intelligence was also scored highly by Roberta, who emphasized that this characteristic is fundamental for any leader, after all “he or she will be an opinion maker for new leaders, which is a great responsibility”.
A close relationship
Throughout her career, Roberta had great bosses of which some she is still friends with and the same can be said about the people she has managed over the years. “I’ve had great people with whom I’m still in contact with nowadays and I see that it also works the other way around because I have many former employees who are also still in contact with me.”
“I try to be an example for them so that they can follow their own path of success. Similar to my former leaders, I’ve never been very ‘easy-going’ with my employees. Life is not easy and we need to be realistic.”
A piece of advice from a female leader
We asked Roberta to leave a message for future women who are at the beginning of their careers and seek to one day be examples of excellent female leaders.
“I say to all women – whether you are in the financial sector or another one – always do something extra. Think as if you were your own client, be it internal or external, and what result you would expect. Study and dedication are other tips because knowledge is the key to any success and nobody can take it away from you. ‘Luck’ always comes with a lot of sacrifices.”
About Husqvarna Group
The Husqvarna Group is the largest global manufacturer of equipment for handling green areas, including chainsaws, brush cutters, robotic lawnmowers and garden tractors. The group is the European market leader in household irrigation products and one of the world’s leading manufacturers of cutting and diamond tools and equipment for the construction and stone industries. In 2017, the group’s net sales totalled SEK 39 billion (about R$ 16 billion). The company consists of 13,000 employees in 40 countries.