Despina Kyriakidou
Director Treasury of the Bank of Cyprus Group

‘My aim is to help my organisation achieve its strategic targets, be an inspirational manager to my team and continue to lead by example’

What is the biggest factor that has helped you be successful?
“Hard work and ambition. Determination to get things done and get them done well. There was never a limit as to how high I could, or wanted to get in the company, the target was always the top levels of the management ladder. Another important factor is that I enjoy what I do. I find my job very challenging, interesting, and stimulating. I feel that this is important as it keeps the motivation high. Banking in general, and the area I work in, has been through very volatile times. It has been a rollercoaster journey through the years, initially of growth and prosperity, expanding abroad in several different countries, and then through the financial crisis, which changed everything, and it became a survival game. A journey with ups and downs, with a new challenge every day, a journey through different landscapes.”

Have you been confronted with gender-related roadblocks in your career?
“Well, I would not say there were roadblocks, but the truth is, and at the risk of sounding like a cliché, men are assumed to be able to do the job, while women have to prove that they can do the job. Finance is a male dominated world, even today. Go to any meeting, any conference, and the black suit and tie prevails in the room. There has, of course, been progress, but it has been slow. When I joined the Bank, there were no women on the Board of Directors; the General Managers were all men, and only one or two women held senior management positions. The picture is different today, but the change has been slow, and there is still a long way to go.”

Why do you think companies would benefit from having more women at the top?
“Women have different attributes and way of thinking than men. The two can complement each other, so having a more balanced representation in the top management can add value to the company. As per a McKinsey & Company study of January 2018: ‘Many successful companies regard Inclusion and diversity (I&D) as a source of competitive advantage. For some, it is a matter of social justice, corporate social responsibility, or even regulatory compliance, while for others, it is essential to their growth strategy. It makes sense that a diverse and inclusive employee base – with a range of approaches and perspectives – would be more competitive in a globalised economy.’
Studies have shown that companies with greater gender diversity, not just within their workforce but directly among senior leaders, exhibit better results than those without. When women become leaders, they provide a different set of skills and perspectives that drive effective solutions. Women can wear many hats. In their everyday life, they need to balance careers, households and have the primary role in raising the kids, among other activities. This equips women leaders to be multitasking and focus on finding solutions to real-life work issues.”

What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?
“To have confidence in themselves and to claim. In recent decades, there have been calls for greater gender equality also highlighting the need to close the gender wage gap. Although significant progress has been made, there is still a fundamental lack of women in leadership roles. Hence, there are still a lot of challenges that lie ahead. Organisations have a responsibility for creating equal opportunities for women. Still, at the same time, women also need to support this effort, to step forward and overcome the habits that are holding them back. New laws and regulations favour and even impose a more equal representation of women in top positions. Women need to believe more in themselves and take up the opportunities provided by these drives.”