On International Women’s Day, nine female staff of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund (UNJSPF) shared their experience as women in finance or IT, and thoughts about the Fund’s efforts and achievements in terms of gender equality.
Read their views below.
Anastasia Rotheroe, Director of Public Equities at the Office of Investment Management: “The Fund is a better place to work than my previous workplaces. I've been at the Fund for 20 years. Prior to that, I worked for Wall Street bankers. There were no women there, so it was a breath of fresh air to come to the Fund. When I joined OIM, we were a very small team. We grew over time and being on recruitment panels gave us the opportunity to help recruit more women staff. This has been a positive about being a focal point for women at the Fund. Six years ago, we started the practice of having one-woman focal point per office; I was one of the first ones. We have expanded the roster both on the Pension Administration side as well as the Office of Investment Management. We now have several members who are focal points, we have all received the UN Women training and participate in recruitment panels. Having a panel that’s diverse is not just good for the organization, but also for the candidate. In all our interviews, we ask a question on gender balance so that candidates immediately see that we take this topic very seriously. At the Office of Investment Management, we have more women working on investments in comparison to other organizations. It’s so important to have that gender balance, particularly when it comes to investments. The Fund has a very good track record with most of our portfolios performing well over the long term, and I think that gender balance really helps contribute to that. We are a long-term investor and we do take that long- term view. I think the dialogue that we have and what we all bring to the table; that diversity really helps to have a positive outcome for the Fund. I think that where we probably could improve the gender balance is in technology. It's not easy to recruit women who have a background in IT. Since the technology field is a growth industry, why not have men and women equally participate in that growth, which is exciting. I think that society in general has to gain from it.”
Miharu Goto, Chief of Section, Information Systems at the Pension Administration: “I worked for a Japanese financial company and an American Investment bank about 30 years ago before joining UNJSPF. Both Japanese society and American investment bank industry in those days were rather male-oriented and chauvinistic. There was considerable discrimination against women. Almost all managers and executives were male, and different career paths were defined from the beginning based on gender. In addition, female workers were expected to resign either when they were married or got pregnant. When I joined UNJSPF in 1993, the UN was not an exception. Most managers were male and there were many incidents of power/sexual harassment against female workers. However, I must admit that the UN offered better maternity leave even then and colleagues were generally supportive of working mothers. Since then, the UN has made significant progress in promoting gender equality, women’s empowerment, reducing power/sexual harassment, supporting flexible work arrangements, and encouraging work-life balance. I am a witness to seeing the UN transform over the last 30 years. I feel the current workplace is far better than what I used to know. We should appreciate those who have fought hard to making the UN a better place for women. It is also important for women to continue to strive as the equal treatment means one is evaluated based on the ability and performance, not on gender.”
Sandhya Peerthum, Chief of Programme Administration at the Office of Investment Management: “As a female staff member, I have worked in different offices of the United Nations. I can see a significant increase in opportunities for women at the Office of Investment Management, in comparison to previous workplaces. We are given equal opportunities and are recognized for our contributions. There is a clear effort to ensure gender diversity in all teams, and there are active initiatives to support and promote women in the workplace. There is still a lot of room for improvement, and I continue to be personally involved in some of those initiatives.”
Sarah Gail Mathieson, Senior Statistician at the Pension Administration: “The Fund is investing a huge amount of money in the wider investment markets – for which we need to be investing responsibly. At the same time, we are meeting the long-term financial needs of former staff and their families – which, due to women living longer than men, will inevitably mean our older client base is skewed towards women.”
Denise Gustin-Gardella, Head of Client Services Team at the Pension Administration – Geneva Office: “The Pension Fund sets a good example in promoting gender balance. Women are represented in leadership positions in the Fund. The head of the Pension Administration is a woman, as are the Chiefs of numerous sections and units in the Fund, including myself as the head of the Client Services team in the Fund's Geneva office.”
Claribelle Poujol, Chief of Business Transformation and Accountability: "The UN Pension Fund is committed to achieving the targets for equal representation of women and men set by the UN System-wide Gender Parity Strategy (SDG 5). I am glad to have been nominated as the UN Pension Administration representative to the UN Anti-Racism Advocates Network. I consider myself as a Woman in STEM given my IT background and having worked in big tech companies. At the UN, I had the opportunity to develop professionally in different roles as Chief of ICT Operations, Chief of Partnerships and now Chief of Business Transformation. The UN provides the opportunity to develop professionally as broadly and as deeply as one wishes."
Sonia Beharovic, HR Team Lead at the Pension Administration and nominee for the 2022 Secretary-General awards in the category “Collegiality”: “Having been a staff member of the UN for over 22 years, worked in 9 entities and 17 positions, I may say that the Fund is not only a better place for women to work, but the best, and not only for women, but also for men…”
Maria Tsimboukis, Compliance Officer at the Office of Investment Management: “Blessed are those who plant trees under whose shade they will never sit. On this International Women’s Day, I am reflecting on all those who came before me, breaking barriers for the benefit of all of us. After years of working in the private sector, I had climbed the corporate ladder but found myself in search of a greater purpose. In many meetings there was little to no representation of women and most troubling of all this constant search for short-term profits. In 2018, I moved to NYC from Montreal for an opportunity to serve as Compliance Officer for the Fund. Shortly after joining, I had the honor of being selected as a Women's Focal Point. I am proud of the work we do at the Fund and applaud the recent progress from the revised UN policy which expanded parental leave benefits to the continued hybrid working environment.”
Kenza Himmi, Associate Investment Officer at the Office of Investment Management: “More than half OIM is made up of women. And women also are represented at almost all levels of the organization. This is definitely very different to where I was previously. I have previously worked in the private sector, in investment management. It’s a male-dominated environment and usually what we see is that there have been efforts to increase female representation, but this is usually at entry and mid-levels, with very few women at the top. Even within companies that take action to promote gender diversity, diversity and equity still seemed like an uphill battle for some of my colleagues. What I like about the fund is the diversity of it and being able to see so many inspiring women in decision-making positions. It makes it seem like a more attainable objective, more of a natural possibility for me. Finance is a male-dominated industry, which I joined as soon as I graduated and where I often found myself to not only be the only woman but also the only woman of colour. It often felt intimidating, being the only woman in the room and feeling like I had to work extra-hard to have my ideas heard or my presence noticed. But at the same time, I also feel extremely lucky that this is at a time where diversity is a topic that’s being increasingly addressed. Slowly, but it’s happening. I have been mentored by incredible women who have had an inspiring journey to the top, facing a lot more hardship that I did. It’s always refreshing to be able to be supported by them and I really hope to one day return that favour.”
Adelfa Hernandez-Chavez, Information System Assistant at the Pension Administration: “This year’s IWD theme is very appropriate to promote gender equality. Women should be given the opportunity to be involved in technology as they can innovate, provide new ideas, and make a system work better. Women can learn, develop, grow, and become leaders of the future. Women should have the right to reach their full potential and become who they want to be. Women have the right to dream and fulfil their dreams. Women are part of our society, and thus should be well represented with their talent, and work. If only men create and do everything, how will it appeal to women? Gender equality is key to a better and happier world. A world without women cannot exist because they are essential for the birth of a child. Similarly, women’s contribution, and inclusion into society can make a nation become more powerful.”