Ángela Pérez | Elecnor Structured Finance Manager
Throughout my career internalisation has been more a lifestyle than a professional option. From my earliest experience in an investment bank, I have always worked in international finance and investment. Over the years, I have learned to analyse surrounds, surmount platitudes and prejudice, respect cultural difference and elasticise my opinions, but also to adapt experience from one environment to another and apply knowledge on a case-by-case basis.
Those international aspirations were significantly influenced in the early years of my career in the nineteen nineties by a challenge I set myself, consisting in proving that a young Spanish woman could participate successfully in the highly Anglicised and masculinised world of international finance. When I first started, very few women were willing to live outside Spain, travel frequently or accept long working hours and uncertain holidays. But I must add that very few companies were willing to confide in or promote women to positions of responsibility in international environs. It is consequently only fair to recognise and acknowledge the companies and superiors (primarily men) who put their trust in me and viewed me, simply, as the right professional for the responsibility to be assumed.
For most companies today, internationalisation is a key ambition. I would encourage women, along with men, to adopt a lead role in such processes, in particular if they aspire to management positions that today more than ever demand international experience.
Inasmuch as women account for 50 % of the world population, companies must not overlook 50 % of the leadership, management and training potential, or the intellectual capacities, brought by women to business. In addition, employers benefit from typically female leadership qualities such as empathy, conflict settlement skills and collaborative management, so necessary in international environments characterised by diversity.
Companies must evolve in three key areas to include women in their internationalisation processes, especially in leadership positions. Firstly, they must do away with preconceived ideas about women’s prioritisation of personal fulfilment over professional concerns; secondly, they must ensure the flexibility and resources needed to enable women and men to participate in international business without forfeiting a balanced personal life; and thirdly they must put an end to salary gaps and glass roofs so more women feel as motivated as men to embark on the international adventure.
That said, work/family balance continues to be a challenge with which each of us must contend personally. I invite everyone to seek the valour required to confront the challenges inherent in internationalisation, a pathway strewn with complexity but paved with opportunity.
*This publication is part of the section 'Female leadership in internationalisation' which is available in COFIDES' 2020 Activity and Sustainability Report.