Sometimes when you’re conducting an interview, a response to a seemingly banal question takes you by surprise and captures a certain quality of the interviewee that you’d found hard to define until that moment.
That happened recently when I interviewed Beatriz Martín, UK CEO and global COO of UBS Investment Bank, about her win in this year’s Women in Technology & Data Awards. “Do you ever get to pick your daughter up from school?” I asked in my final question to her, to which responded immediately: “Yes, of course I do. I also get to go to the shows (school plays),” she explained, illustrating just how far this industry has come in recent years with respect to flexibility and supporting employees’ work–life balance. “Last year we had a two-day executive committee meeting and one of the days coincided with my daughter’s Christmas show,” she continued. “I made arrangements with my team to make sure that I could go to the show on the morning of the meeting. This is 2019 and sometimes I would like to be present at important events for her and also for me. Juggling my roles at work and my role as a parent comes down to fiercely protecting the choices I have to make and what I prioritize at any given moment to get the right balance—something all working parents, men and women, do every day. It’s also my responsibility to lead by example so that colleagues, male or female, feel they can do the same.”
The significance of a chief executive—especially one representing one of the industry’s most prominent investment banks—speaking so candidly and emphatically about the importance of family life and maintaining a healthy work–life balance should not be underestimated. UBS, with Martín at the helm, might well be blazing a trail that ultimately all capital markets firms come to follow at some point in the future.
According to Martín, recipient of the best technology executive (sell side) category at last year’s AFTAs, UBS has been on a decade-long “journey” to increase the ratio of women in senior management roles to one third. “We have put a lot of thought into our many diversity and inclusion initiatives, which includes gender diversity,” she explains. “As an organization, we have thought about how to recruit and also how to place women in strategic positions, and that is definitely not by coincidence. We have done a lot of work on it and it has improved, but we are by no means done.”
We could wax lyrical about Martín’s achievements and her plans for UBS, but what is more compelling in this context is her candor and open-mindedness with respect to gender equality and driving the work-life agenda, a stance that is as rare as it is refreshing.
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