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Elevate: Empowering the next generation of female leaders

November 8, 2022

“Historically, there have been far fewer women in our industry” says Harriet Newman, Director, Global Subsidiaries Coverage – Asia, European Corporate Finance. “I’m delighted that Mizuho is taking positive steps to encourage female leadership within the banking industry, and programmes like Elevate are absolutely helping to close that gap.”

As part of Mizuho’s commitment to investing in future female leaders, 2021 saw the launch of the Elevate programme.  This 12 month bespoke programme focusses on skills development and give participants a platform from which to accelerate their future careers with us.

“What made Elevate different is the fact that it was designed by Annabel and I – two women who are further on in our careers and so have first-hand experience of the obstacles that can hold up women at this point,” explains Lisa Woodward, Managing Director and Head of Operations at Mizuho International. “It was important to us to really deliver what participants need to get to the next level, from practical tools like how to project your voice or use impactful body language, to insights into overcoming challenges like imposter syndrome.”

Building a bespoke programme

Fellow programme director Annabel Gurney, Managing Director, Head of Quality Assurance and Senior Legal Counsel, Europe Structure Finance at Mizuho Bank, says that although Elevate is just one strand of Mizuho’s actions on increasing gender diversity, the bespoke factor made it especially valuable for participants. “Not only did we include the elements that we all know are important for success, such as mentoring and peer-to-peer support, Lisa and I were also able to draw on our personal network across Mizuho to bring in very senior speakers to share their personal experiences with the group.”

She adds that the fact that the programme was entirely virtual ended up being a distinct advantage: “Although there are definitely benefits to being able to meet and network in the same space, being online facilitated some very frank and honest exchanges, and enabled us to ensure that all voices were heard.”

The importance of roadmaps–and role models

So why did the group of 10 apply for Elevate? Elaine Chircop, VP, Delivery Manager and BA, Information Systems Department at Mizuho International explains her reasons: “I felt at a crossroads in my career. I didn’t have either role models or a roadmap to help me identify where I wanted my career to go.” Jaishrika Joshi, Senior Associate Director, Internal Audit Department, Europe – SOX Team at Mizuho Bank, says that even applying felt like a leap for her: “I had to come out of my comfort zone to even apply and very quickly realised that if you want to progress you have to be willing to take ownership of your career and own your personal brand, as no one else is going to do this for you.  This includes taking initiative, stepping up and seeking new opportunities and showcasing your skills, building a track record of good performance and hence credibility and raising your internal profile but most importantly challenging the status quo and stepping out of your comfort zone as there is no comfort in growth.”

And what was their biggest takeaway from the year-long programme? Shirley Poon, AVP for Financial Reporting and Control at Mizuho International valued the practical insights and tips on leadership: “Learning about different styles of leadership was really helpful for me. Also, I discovered that being more visible internally really matters.”

Catherine Lau, Director, Regulatory Risk Management at Mizuho International says that she got a helpful new perspective on overcoming moments of self-doubt: “Imposter syndrome is definitely a real phenomenon. But a lot of people don’t realise how much they already know. Ask yourself, could you be replaced tomorrow? The answer is likely no–you’ll have more experience and skills that you give yourself credit for.” Jaishrika adds that, “I have learned that more you step up, the more you challenge yourself, the more confident you become. It’s impossible to get rid of self-doubt completely. It’s better to control it. Self-belief isn’t a state of mind, it’s a process and a set of tools that you can rely on.”

Why you should always share your successes

The importance of sharing success is something that all participants agree that they have taken away from the programme.  For Lisa and Annabel, the benefits of this go beyond simply celebrating personal wins: “People, and especially women can sometimes think that simply doing the job well is enough to get them noticed and rewarded,” explains Annabel. But according to Lisa, “The truth is, as busy managers, we appreciate when our people are keeping us up to date on their achievements and successes.” 

Harriet explains what that means in practice: “The most valuable piece of advice that I can now pass on is to always have your personal elevator pitch ready. Be ready to share what deals you’re working on, what other progress or achievements that you’ve made. Get comfortable showcasing yourself.”

The final word goes to Elaine: “I definitely believe in the idea that if you can’t see it, you can’t be it. Programmes like Elevate help to build a pipeline of women in leadership roles at Mizuho and that means we can be role models for the next generation too.”

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