What does a career in treasury and finance look like to students or people who are just starting out in the workforce? If they’ve never been exposed to that world, it is a complete unknown. In fact, it’s likely not even on their radar.
One common way to learn more about a field is through apprenticeships, internships and professional development. But within underrepresented communities, some have less access to the resources and networks that enable them to take that first step.
In an effort to address this disparity, AFP launched the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Awareness Initiative for Treasury and Finance. The goal of the initiative is to introduce treasury and finance careers to underrepresented communities, empowering young professionals with professional development, skills building, ongoing training and continuous learning to help them grow rewarding careers in treasury and finance.
Growing young people’s understanding of all the opportunities available to them in the field of finance, including the fact that it’s so much more than they might expect, is critically important to the expansion and evolution of the profession.
“Our profession is expanding rapidly, and it is our intention to ensure that expansion includes a diverse workforce,” said Jim Kaitz, CEO and president of AFP. “Bringing fresh voices and diverse skill sets to the table will only serve to enhance and propel the corporate finance and treasury profession forward.”
Introducing the profession at a young age is important to igniting that spark. As May Vang, vice president of treasury and chief investment officer for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, said of her experience, “I participated in the finance apprenticeship program for banking when I was in high school, and it’s through this experience that led me to pursue a degree in finance and now a 20-year career that I love. We need more resources and programs, organizations like AFP, to create intentional opportunities to expose our underrepresented youth to the endless possibilities within the finance field.”
One way AFP is taking this on is through its Corporate Treasury and Finance Career Opportunities page, complete with videos and stories from real-world finance professionals, glossary of finance terms, relevant articles and a Career Pathing tool. AFP has also created a Scholarship and Internship Index for college students and young professionals.
“Internships, internships, internships, getting your foot in the door, whether as an intern or contractor or consultant, just being in that environment and being able to learn is honestly the first step,” said Salma Mgawe, associate director of FP&A for Invesco.
This initiative is not just about bringing people to the table — although it starts there. It is about continuing the conversation beyond and helping employers bolster their own DEI programs to create work environments where people from all backgrounds can excel.
“I would add the mentorship component to it. Finding someone who looks like you and learning about their journey and their hurdles can also help you gain a little bit more of a perspective on what you should or shouldn’t do as you’re growing in your career,” said Mgawe. “As a woman of color in finance, it can sometimes be a little bit intimidating, but your presence can impact a room, as does what you bring to the table and how you perform in your brand. It's a full package. You should never be concerned about your gender or your color in that moment. It should really be about what you contribute and how you can make the organization better.”
“My advice to young and passionate finance professionals, bring your authentic self to the workplace, don’t be afraid to let your diverse voices be heard,” said Vang. “Inclusive companies embrace the diversity of thought of new ideas and perspectives, and that’s what drives winning organizations. Trusting and embracing your unique voice through your professional career will be transformational for this field and is long overdue.”
AFP is not alone in this. We are proud to work with several well-known and prestigious corporations, including DEI Awareness Initiative founding partner Invesco and partners Amazon, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo. This is not a small undertaking, but by working together, we can realize the vision to better serve underrepresented communities and create a more diverse and inclusive industry representative of all people.
Learn more about AFP’s DEI Awareness Initiative for Treasury and Finance, take advantage of the resources available, and discover what you can do to help.