Building Internal Buy-in

Getting Them Onboard with the Women’s Market Strategy

This panel looked at the range of levers that must be pulled in order to embed a Women’s Market program in the bank, from Board Room buy-in to having the right core team, the appointment of Ambassadors and Champions, the creation of branding materials and branch-level events, internal communications, staff training and modifying employee incentive systems — with a key focus on Diversity & Inclusion.

Key Points

  • To succeed with women, you have to walk the talk in your own organization. At Bank al Etihad, nearly 45% of employees are women, including the CEO and CFO. Women receive equal pay for equal work, as well as equal benefits and incentives.
  • Because of these existing policies, the culture at the bank was receptive to the idea of targeting women as a distinct segment. Nadia al Saeed, the bank’s CEO, took the idea to the Board an Chairman, who were supportive. Less than a year after taking a Study Tour of BLC Bank and engaging with the IFC to develop the strategy, “Shorouq” was launched, with buy-in from the top down.
  • Providing equal opportunities for employment and advancement is key to pushing gender equality in any financial institution. BLC Bank uses discrimination-free recruitment strategies, mentoring, and policies and procedures to ensure this. In 2014, 49% of internal promotions at the bank were women. 43% of senior managers at BLC Bank are women, and they have a target to increase that number to 50% by 2020, in accordance with the UN WEPs.

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  • Just doing gender sensitivity training is not enough — the learnings need to be used to implement policies and reinforced throughout the organization. Ambassadors for the Women’s Market program are therefore extremely important.
  • At Westpac, 60% of staff members are women, with 42% in senior management. They have a strong Champion and Ambassador model, and the Ruby Connection brand has a designated area in all branches. In addition, all new employees are trained on the Women’s Market as part of the induction training, and even as managers change, the platform’s value is made evident through continuous training.
  • Westpac has been fortunate to always have CEO buy-in, but getting there is about communicating the strong business case. It’s important for everyone to understand the business case, from top to bottom, as branches are the ones implementing it. To understand the business case, you need the data on efficiency and profitability.
  • At Itaú Unibanco, 60% of staff are women, but only 10% of officers. This is a trend throughout the bank’s home base of Brazil. They are trying to change the pattern, promoting more women internally into senior positions.
  • Having role models is important so women can see that it is possible for them to climb the career ladder and build confidence in themselves.
  • At Garanti Bank, more than half of employees are women, and 41% of those in management positions are women. This started as a business initiative, and it was important to get buy-in from the relationship management team as well as top management. Women are given equal opportunity for advancement and hire.
  • Some banks incentivize selling to women, while others use the program as a tool. BLC, for instance, rewards the sales force with increased KPI points for opening a women-owned account. Westpac, on the other hand, emphasizes women as a priority, but does not give sales representatives specific targets for women-owned accounts.
  • Branding is also very important — banks must see what fits best for them in terms of association with the main brand, and also make sure the public and employees alike understand what the bank is doing and that it is not simply part of CSR. The branding needs to convey this.
  • In terms of Diversity & Inclusion, apart from ensuring equal opportunities within the bank, flexible work hours and maternity/paternity leave policies are very useful.

Panels Button


Chief Executive Officer, Bank al Etihad

Head of Human Resources, BLC Bank

Manager, Women’s Markets, Westpac

Executive Director of Legal Department, Itaú Unibanco

SME Banking Marketing Manager, Garanti Bank
Garanti Case Study


“The Women’s Market is a dream for a CEO. It’s a whole new dimension to add revenue.”
— Nadia al Saeed

“Just doing training is not enough. We needed to sustain the learning and ensure what was learned was implemented. So we had Ambassadors to ensure the learning was applied.”
— Souheil Younes

“We ensure that the Women’s Markets are incorporated into the induction training for new employees.”
— Rachael McKenzie

“We have to show women that there is an opportunity for advancement for them. This is why having role models is so important.” 
— Leila Melo

“It takes time for people to understand what you are doing — that this is not part of your CSR. You need to have very good branding to get this across.”
— Selin Oz