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50 Leading Female Financial Services Professionals

50 Leading Female Financial Services Professionals

In 2010, IMF Head Christine Lagarde, who was France’s Finance Minister at the time, quipped to a journalist that “Ιf Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters, today’s economic crisis clearly would look quite different”. Many people, and not only women, agreed with her view, as stated subsequently in a New York Times article, that “When women are called to action in times of turbulence, it is often on account of their composure, sense of responsibility and great pragmatism in delicate situations”.

Lagarde is, of course, something of a high-profile exception and she admits that “It took some luck and a lot of willpower for me to reach the position I hold today” but the fact is that, across the Western world at least, traditionally male-dominated professions have seen a shift in culture and recruitment policies that have enabled talented and qualified women to work side by side with their male counterparts as equals…well, almost. The ideal of equal pay is still some way off in many sectors but there can be no doubt that, in recent decades, more and more women have been given the opportunities they deserve to rise through the ranks to the very top of their profession.

Given the entrenched and often chauvinistic views of many men in Cyprus and the country’s small size, one might reasonably expect successful women professionals to be a small minority. The truth is pleasantly different, especially in the thriving professional services sector, as evidenced by the responses of the 50 women featured on the following pages to three questions posed by Gold. While the situation varies within the sub-sectors (women are notably well-represented in law firms), it is clear that in Cyprus in the 21st century, professional services are no longer the closed man’s world they once were. Our featured professional women are more or less unanimous in this view, and they are equally united in the opinion that while more women are entering the accountancy, banking, legal, fiduciary and financial service professions, few of them are given the chance to rise to the very top. This is partly to do with choice – when it comes to the ‘career vs family’ dilemma, many women are understandably unwilling to sacrifice motherhood – but also with the lingering male dominance of senior posts. 

The legal sector appears to be an exception to the rule: As Maria Kyriacou (Advocate/Partner, Andreas Neocleous & Co LLC) points out, there are currently 1,220 registered women lawyers and 1,331 men, 55 female and 60 male judges in Cyprus. However, while the figures don't lie, Emily Yiolitis (Managing Partner, Harneys Aristodemou Loizides Yiolitis LLC) notes that women are still under-represented in the top echelons of law firms. 

Elsewhere, women continue to be a minority: Maria Dionyssiades (General Manager/Executive Director, Emporiki Bank Cyprus Ltd, Credit Agricole Group) points out that “The proportion of female employees in the banking sector in Cyprus is significant but the top management positions are almost exclusively male-dominated” while Olga Rybalkina (Chief Executive Officer, ForexTime Ltd) states clearly that she is “not aware of another woman running a business like this”.

Another widely-held view to emerge from the responses to our questions is that while women have their own special qualities and a different approach to business from men, the ideal situation within any organisation or company is for women and men to work together as a team so that, as Nicole Ioannou (Manager Accounting Department, HTT Audit Ltd) says, “the qualities of one gender complement the strengths of the other and together they can achieve better results than alone”.


The Questions


The 50 women featured here were asked three questions:


1. Would you describe your profession as “a man’s world”?

2. Can women make a different contribution from men to the professional services sector? Is so, in what way?

3. What single thing would you change to improve Cyprus’ reputation as an international business centre?