In a sector so traditionally dominated by men, it is important to also highlight and celebrate the achievements of the thousands of talented women currently working in finance. We sat down with Ines Escola, Account Development Manager for Block Discounting at SFS UK, to talk about her experience as a woman in finance.
Ines got her start in finance working as an Internal Admin before moving into Vendor Finance and sales. In 2003, she joined SFS, initially working again in Vendor Finance, where she spent 15 years as both an Account Development Manager and the Northern Sales Manager, before making the move into Block Discounting in 2018.
You’ve obviously enjoyed a very successful career, what do you think has been the key to your success?
It may sound simple but: doing what you say you will do, when you say you will do it. You’d be surprised at how many people don’t get this step right. Reliability is key to any profession really; your boss needs to rely on you and so do your customers – that’s how strong lasting relationships are built. Being able to work comfortably in different situations is also important, but if I were to emphasise one thing it would be the importance of good feedback. It is invaluable. I think if you can get into the habit of obtaining this from customers and colleagues then you’ll go far, after all, how can you grow if you don’t know what you need to improve? There’s no shame in knowing your weaknesses.
And how does having a diverse workforce fit into this? Do you think it makes a difference?
Oh absolutely. A diverse workforce offers a variety of different perspectives which not only has a positive effect on the feedback you get, but also results in more ideas, creativity and potentially quicker decisions. With a broader opinion on decisions I believe there is more confidence in the decisions made, and as my colleague Jo Harris writes in her recent report, companies with a more diverse workforce are actually more profitable too.
What has been your experience as a woman working in a field historically dominated by men?
I think when I started my career in finance, things had already begun to change. I consider myself lucky. It was still a predominantly male environment, yes, but I’ve always felt incredibly supported by my colleagues and had so many great opportunities come my way. My experience has been wholly positive and while that might be a sign of the times, I also see it as a testament to the company I work for.
And is there still work to be done?
Well as I mentioned before, I personally feel the finance world has come a long way insofar as gender bias is concerned but of course there’s still work to be done. When I look around the business, there are many women in higher managerial and executive roles. When I look at my customers, over 30% of them have female directors. It’s a great thing to see and it’s something I hope will only increase. It’s an encouraging sign for a woman starting out in finance to see balanced representation in leadership roles.
There are also practical steps that companies can take to improve their diversity and inclusion. My colleague Jo lists a few key actions in her report on diversity in the finance industry – well worth a read if you’re unsure where to start.
Well it’s definitely encouraging to see the industry making a conscious effort to engage with the gender discourse, and as you’ve said, hopefully it will lead to more women deciding to enter the industry. What advice would you give to any woman looking to start a career in finance?
Go for it! There are so many opportunities out there for talented women, and as I’ve said, there’s no better time to get into the industry.
Also, I know it’s been said a thousand times before, but you really can’t ignore the value of networking. I would encourage any woman interested in starting a career in finance to connect with others in the industry, feel free to drop me a message on LinkedIn and I’d be happy to help you in any way that I can!
Ines Escola, Account Development Manager Block Discounting
I am a Block Discounting Account Development Manager and have been part of the team since 2018, building business relationships with existing customers and onboarding new opportunities.
I have worked in the finance industry for over 20 years, having joined Siemens in 2003. My length of service at SFS has helped me to develop a strong internal and external network and enabled me to develop a broad knowledge of the finance industry.
My spare time is mainly spent enjoying time with my son. I try to get to the gym as often as possible and enjoy catching up with friends, which usually involves sampling a new gin.