Women’s education is very important to me on number of levels which is why I am a big proponent of getting female STEM students into HSBC; it’s personal.
My recently deceased grandmother Rachel Cohen was a Kurdish Jewish immigrant – she’s pictured above. She had to flee her country just after the end of the Second World War and never had the privilege of an education and had no freedom in her choice of career.
Education changed my life. Through my education I was able to get a role at HSBC. Fast forward in time and my daughter has just graduated with a double major with distinction in STEM subjects.
Because of this, and my deep understanding of what education can bring, I set up the #Infusion100 movement four years ago. With HSBC colleagues, we have built four schools - two in Africa, one in Haiti after the earthquake there and one in Nicaragua. They have educated more than 1,000 students to date.
By the way, the other lady pictured in this post is my ‘grandmother’ in Senegal – when you build a school there you’re adopted by a family.
#Infusion100 is about giving back to communities and helping women like my grandmother all over the world. In the villages where we build the schools we see many women who get married and have families at a very young age.
We want to give them hope and the chance to make choices with their life that they currently can’t. Schools give them a choice because it offers women the opportunity to return to education. Many go with their babies strapped to their backs.
We encourage them to learn and then make a choice about how they want to live. Education offers choices, education offers freedom.
Recently I became CIO in Mexico for the bank’s Global Banking and Markets business. I am immensely proud of this role and what it means to the women around me. It shows there is no glass ceiling; we can punch through it and that anything is possible, no matter what your past is or who you are.
Within HSBC Technology we have tried to change the dial on diversity with a variety of leader and employee-led approaches to change the underlying culture and promote inclusivity. Here are some examples:
- Focusing on youth and encouraging female students aged 14 to 18 into STEM courses at universities around the world including Hong Kong, mainland China, Mexico, New York, London and Canada
- In Mexico we were walking into universities and finding only a few female students doing STEM. We realised we needed to start encouraging girls at a younger age to choose these subjects
- We set up an all-female graduate programme in conjunction with Microsoft in Hong Kong to teach more women about artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. According to the Global gender gap report (14.45MB, PDF) from the World Economic Forum, only 22 per cent of AI and machine learning professionals are women
- We set up multiple hackathons called #FemTechfortheFuture for all female locations with a global footprint
- Ensuring job adverts are diversity-friendly. Women don’t tend to apply for a role if they feel they are not 100 per cent compliant with all the points within the job description (I include myself in this). We have also added women to the interview process
- Looking at making succession planning more diversity and inclusion-friendly
- Making sure that opportunities for women mentoring and networking are in place
- Sponsoring #IAmRemarkable training to illustrate where we need to improve and where our own biases sit
- Finding male allies within the organisation to help promote diversity and inclusion
At HSBC we are very proud of our diversity and inclusion programmes and the education provided worldwide through the #Infusion100 movement. It is amazing what’s possible when you bring people together for one common aim.