March 8th, 2023

‘With the correct encouragement and support, we can all succeed in the right circumstances’

For International Women’s Day, Assetz Capital’s director of operations Irene Thomas shares some of her advice from working in the industry for 30 years.

What advice do you have for women on navigating a male-dominated industry?

Honestly, I don’t focus on the industry as being overly male dominated, as there are lots of successful women within specialist finance. At Assetz Capital, for example, you wouldn’t make that assumption looking around our office, as there are more women than men these days! Generally, I think it’s important to be open and honest, and to believe in yourself in whatever you do. 

Finding a mentor, either in your business or externally, is also extremely important for personal growth. In my many years of working in specialist lending, my leaders have always been male, and I have been part of large teams which have been male-dominated until recent years. I’ve been fortunate to work with some top-class leaders — including Marc Goldberg, commercial CEO at Together, and Andrew Charnley, managing director at Assetz Capital — and all of them have always been extremely supportive in my career growth, supported both male and female colleagues, and been open to understanding the challenges in the female world — from pregnancy, childbirth and, more recently, the awareness of menopause. 

Lastly, I’d say to anyone looking to make a name for themselves — get out and about in the market, and visit brokers and customers on common ground. Don’t just do the things you are comfortable with and not get noticed — the comfort bubble is there to be challenged! I’m also a big believer in leading by example and using your voice and influence within your organisation to effect positive change.
What still needs to be improved to boost gender equality in the specialist/development finance sector? 

I think that transparency is key in addressing the gender pay gap in financial services.
While the industry is taking steps to progress, we should always be conducting market research and have a better awareness of how we can improve.

Representation in leadership positions across the industry is also key to encouraging more women into careers in financial services. It’s been great to see various initiatives to celebrate successful females in the industry, like the Women in Finance Awards, and we need more things like that to raise women’s profiles.

In my position as a leader and mentor, I’ve always encouraged both women and men to progress and grow their careers. In the past, I have interviewed, recruited, and managed colleagues of all ages — from apprentices, graduates or from the school of life — and what’s clear to me is that with the correct encouragement and support, we can all succeed in the right circumstances. 
There’s still a lot of catching up to do to lower the gender pay gap, but if we are all transparent on the benchmark for the value of the role as the driving factor, followed by the experience of the person, I believe this will improve even more in the future.

As seen on Development Finance today-,%20we%20can%20all%20succeed%20in%20the%20right%20circumstances%E2%80%99