What drew you to the derivatives industry?
I got into it by chance. I bumped into a friend who was working as a broker in the City and I had just finished my A-Levels. He told me that UBS was looking for support staff for its gilt desk. I had no idea what a gilt desk was at that time, however I pursued the opportunity. I joined the industry as a support desk clerk at UBS, then moved to Goldman Sachs to look after the interbank desk and the swaps desk. Goldman Sachs started to trade new product types, for example, credit derivatives, CDOs, and hybrid products. I learned about how these products worked, the trade life cycle, the support functions and the operational part of the business, which led to my building a support team years ago, now the middle office.
Who have been your role models and the most influential people in your career?
My support really came from my family. My father was an academic and my mother was partially deaf, so her education was curtailed due to her disability. However, they were both driven and were constantly telling me to aim high and do my best. They were my biggest support system. They also told me I had to work harder and do better than my peers to attain the same access.
My manager at Goldman Sachs, Al Sinsheimer, was also instrumental. He said to me, "Pam, you are in charge of your career. You have to manage it, no one is going to do it for you, it is up to you to make it work." I have always lived by that.
How have things changed in terms of diversity and inclusion since you started working?
I was one of two black people on a trading floor at the beginning of my career 25 years ago. When I left my last role, I was one of maybe four. In 25 years, there has not been significant change. What has happened is social consciousness has been elevated through technology and the death of George Floyd, where racism is being filmed on phones. There is a greater awareness of inequality and racial injustice, so people are now talking about equality and diversity. But while firms want this to be meaningful, many fall short in the delivery. Some will say, "We have two women on our board", and for them that ticks the diversity box.
The conundrum is this: There is no real agreement or definition of what D&I is. It is problematic as each organisation has its own context and that is why numbers for LGBTQ, Black and minority ethnic (BME) and disabled people remain low.
I am now the co-founder of Genesis Consultancy and we work with companies on their organisational design while changing the conversation to equality and diversity. Using a transformative 'Equalities in Practice' approach, we conduct health checks and identify under-reviewed processes to refine or re-engineer them, as you cannot bolt on new strategies to old process mechanisms.
We work with companies to embed equality frameworks from operational through to board level. It's a 360-degree implementation that provides companies with the right sustainability plans and strategies, allowing organisations to develop, support, and retain staff throughout all levels of their company.
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What do you see as the biggest barriers to Black and ethnic minority professionals growing into leadership roles?
One of the biggest barriers is what I call "the sticky middle". Julia Streets, who runs the DiverCity podcast, coined this phrase. The sticky middle is usually white managers who have been in situ a long time and hire in their own image, creating a specific culture for their company. For someone like me, if I am not reflected at the board or C-suite level of the business, it feels impossible to be promoted to those ranks. Some will say you need to have an amazing sponsor, otherwise you will not get to that next level.
No one seems to talk about headhunters either. There are elitist headhunters out there who are doing an awful job in placing marginalised people in roles because of their own racism, biases, and judgments. This is not new – this is systematic. These are the systems that need to be dismantled.
Going to the same pools of talent to recruit is just lazy and unimaginative. Work with new academies, build relationships with social enterprises and BME, Disabled and LGBTQ networks, and have these at the heart of your customer relationship management processes.
Finally, what it comes down to is: are companies really invested in this? If the answer is yes, then there is a need to invest in the equality imperative, fund it, resource it, have this at the heart of the organisational culture and use it as a lever for change. Communicate your strategies and do the work necessary to futureproof and sustain.
Tell us one thing you hope for future generations.
I hope future generations continue to fight against racial injustice and let their activism be meaningful for a change. I want the next generation of CEOs to be more wider thinking, to invest in equalities in practice and be ready, willing and able to listen to their employees. I want them to offer a seat at the table and build communities, not board members. For the next generation, I want oppressive systems that hold people back to be dismantled. I want to see more black, ethnic, LGBTQ and disabled CEOs.
This is part of what my company does. We say to a CEO, what are you committed to? What do you want your company to look like? A lot of companies haven't really grasped the equalities in practice piece. They do not have an ecosystem in place and that's what my consultancy builds with them. Because with a transformed company, people will want to work there all day, every day, and with equality at the heart of the business, there will be no need for the word 'inclusion', which, by the way, I see as redundant.
Pamela Jones is Co-Founder and Executive Director of Genesis Consultancy, which works with organisations to build a robust ecosystem to support, mobilise and promote equality and diversity. She is an advocate for the advancement, wellness and leadership of women and girls, and mentors senior women in leadership roles within the financial services sector. Jones is also Chair of Women in Listed Derivatives London (WILD), which promotes networking and relationship-building among women within the OTC and listed derivatives industry through social and educational events. Previously, Jones worked for several investment banks and brokerage houses in a career spanning more than 25 years.