Breaking the Paradigms of Gender Bias in a Male-Led Industry

Maria del Consuelo Briones - Steer Voices of the IndustryAlthough significant progress has been made in the area of gender equality, discrimination and disparities persist on a global scale. Therefore, people and companies must work harder to combat and close them. One success story has been that of Maria del Consuelo Briones, Risk Director at Banco Santander in Mexico. We recently got the chance to talk with her and hear about her experience and advice on how to move forward on this issue.

Since beginning her career in structured finance, Maria del Consuelo has noticed that men generally occupy leadership positions. However, as the years have passed, she has seen an evolution where the participation of women in this sector has been gradually increasing and gaining strength, despite the existing gaps; emphasizing that support among women is indispensable and that, in her case, having several female bosses, the support from them has been enormous in empowerment, growth, leadership, etc., stating the following: "I have been fortunate that, although in the sector where I am, women's leadership is still a minority, I feel that there is an important networking, in which all women support and promote each other, both with my team and with all related parties. And this, I believe, is one of the main reasons why today the gender distribution is beginning to look different.”

Maria del Consuelo has faced several challenges related to inclusion and equity from a gender perspective, such as prejudice, sexism, equality and opportunities. She emphasizes that both men and women should have the same opportunities at a personal and professional level, as women are equally capable as men of assuming leadership roles and carrying out complex tasks, not just housework.  "In terms of equality, I think it should be applied to both genders. It should be normalized that men should also take care of the children and help with household chores, without making them look weak. It is important that prejudices towards men are also broken. They can work as a team in family matters, not only in the workplace. This must change, we must normalize that men are also fathers, husbands and that they, just like us, can support the housework with total naturalness."

We asked Maria del Consuelo how Santander is developing or implementing gender equality and inclusion policies and what progress has been made in this area. She said that the organization’s main objective is diversity and inclusion, which has been implemented in different ways, highlighting three initiatives. She is firstly very happy and proud of the "Women 360" initiative. Women 360 consists of forums and courses that last approximately four months and include conversations on empowerment, speaking up, networking, and leadership skills. Providing a space where all women employees can meet and share their experiences and anecdotes that focus on they want to achieve their personal and professional goals, as well as the strategy to implement to achieve them.

In addition, the bank also offers flexible working, and as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the program took much more strength to seek a balance between personal and work, noting: "Our way of working is flexible, it adjusts to the needs of each person's lifestyle, and we have a middle ground between virtual and face-to-face. The bank is focused on making adjustments to suit the reality of each individual because we are in a revolution in the way we work, where we must adapt to be able to work smoothly and in the best possible way."

Lastly, the bank has implemented an inclusive promotion and transfer policy in which all employees are evaluated objectively, and those who deserve to be promoted are considered for their experience and skills, not for their gender. In her personal experience, Maria del Consuelo believes that she has never felt limited because she is a woman; she has earned everything on her own merit and for her excellent results.

Maria del Consuelo concludes with three great tips for women's professional development:

  1. "Keep the fear in a drawer, know that you will not always be able to do things perfectly. The issue of support network is very important, look for a coach to help you grow, look to get out of your comfort zone so that your networking can grow."
  2. "The basis for having a balance between personal and professional life is organization and having a support network, you can't divide yourself into a thousand pieces to be able to be everywhere. You must organize yourself and team up with your partner and/or your work team. My professional growth is due, among others, to the support I have received from my husband. Day to day, you are generating that balance, you have to prioritize the different responsibilities, this allows you to make the best decisions."
  3. “It is necessary to promote environments where there is a balance between the responsibilities of men and women, foster trust between genders to achieve balanced environments.”

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