Power Women special: Shona Baijal, UBS Wealth Management
Shona Baijal, Managing Director and Desk Head at UBS Wealth Management, talks about winning the Woman of the Year: Leadership (Large, Institutional) award and her efforts to promote diversity in financial sector.
Remind us of a great man who have been supportive of you in your career.
I have to mention Jamie Broderick who has brought an incredible energy and commitment to our approach to gender diversity and has been an inspiration for me. Jamie has employed a very rigorous approach to gender diversity, using research and real data, and he has always been a great advocate of women and broader diversity within our business. He has tackled this in the same way as any other business issue and has been very successful in making it a priority for us.
The second person is my husband. I couldn’t do what I do without his care and support. I’m a mother of small children, with a very demanding full time job and he has made considerable sacrifices which have allowed me to pursue my career. Emotional support has also been important and having someone you can share you highs and lows with really helps.
How did winning the Power Women Awards impact your career or personal life?
It has been very rewarding for me to see that some of the hard work I have put into this has started to be recognised. What has been really touching is the response from the people I work with who have been genuinely pleased and proud, and that includes my clients. I think my fellow female colleagues in particular have been very touched to see a fellow woman recognised. It motivates me to do even bigger and better things going forward to try and make a difference.
Why should people, both women and men, enter the awards this year?
I feel that we are at a turning point. This is an issue that has been bubbling under the surface for a while now. I think that we have a real opportunity in the next three to five years to make a big change. To this end there is already a lot being done by businesses with both men and women doing a great job to promote gender diversity and we need to congratulate ourselves. The task is probably never going to be done, we will never tick all the boxes. But we need to remind ourselves how much we have achieved and to celebrate the success along the way.
Changing the topic slightly, what does your organisation do to encourage individuals from BME community to learn about your organisation?
First we leverage our role models where possible- as an example, I am Indian myself and have sought to do what I can to promote diversity and the gender and ethnicity levels. My main message is that our differences as an organisation should be our strength- this is particularly relevant in a people oriented industry like wealth management.
We also need to think about diversifying our candidate pipeline and try and encourage minorities, who may not even consider a career in the City, to think about it more carefully. For example, as a bank, we work with six-formers in the Hackney area, we offer them mentoring and work experience opportunities. We also go to meet them regularly to talk about why they should enter financial sector.
As a bank, we regularly go to universities and talk to BME students to tackle the misconceptions they have about our industry. Many still think it’s very white and male dominated. However, the more real-life models they have, the more they can consider this type of career. We also try to explain to them that our clients are not of one type and our salesforce should mirror that.