Niamh Downey is Head of Business Development and has been with Bluestone for 3.5years, although she has been in the finance industry for 7 years. Niamh has had the fastest progression in the company, having started as a BDM, then team leader and now senior position as head of the department. She does not believe in limiting beliefs and strives to achieve any goal she sets for herself.
What led you to a career in financial services?
It was a bit of pot luck really. I was in college and knew that university wasn’t the right route for me so I needed a full time job. I eventually chose the job that I felt culturally would be a good fit for me and that happened to be working for a packager in the mortgage industry, and here we are!
What do you think makes a successful leader? And in particular women leaders?
One of the most important things for a great leader is how they build and invest in their team. Surrounding yourself as a leader with people that have different skill sets, viewpoints and being able to bring out the best in those individuals makes someone a successful leader in my opinion. I equally think that being forward-thinking, setting short and long term goals and making sure you create a culture that reflects positive values is really important. For women in particular, women make great leaders as we value a work-life balance and have an innate ability to be pragmatic, collaborative and encourage innovation and free thinking.
If you could tell your younger self one thing you know about the industry now, what would it be?
It would be to try and remain as positive as possible and to know that every hardship you’re going to face in the industry will turn out to be a great learning opportunity and only help your ongoing growth as a person. Remember that you never want to be the smartest person in a room and learn as much as you can from others. And also to trust yourself and your instincts and trust you’re doing a great job!
Do you think there is still a glass ceiling?
I’m very fortunate working at Bluestone and as an individual, I personally don’t believe there is a glass ceiling for me with what I can achieve. However, generally, there is still a way to go in terms of pay and representation. Some women lack the confidence to put their hand up for senior level roles which can be due to the fear of the unknown, not feeling ready and also that lack of representation depending on where you work. Men generally will be more inclined to reach for those senior level roles even if they aren’t ready whereas women think more and want to achieve a level of perfection first. To break that barrier, conversation is the best way to do so and spark conversation on how we can improve the issues. At ground level, we need to make sure we’re inspiring workers and leaders from all types of backgrounds so that success isn’t limited to one type of person.
Who is an inspiration to you?
I wouldn’t necessarily say one person or group of people inspire me. What inspires me is the goals I know that I want to achieve, short term and long term and that keeps me motivated and inspires me to want to achieve and do better. Saying that, having a good support system around you that keeps you grounded, keeps you positive and uplifts you as a person really helps with that too.
This year’s IWD theme is #EmbraceEquity. What do you think can be done to embrace equity for women in the Financial Industry?
Recruiting the best people from a diverse background whether that be gender, race, ethnicity is really important. And it’s also really important to recognise that some women also have more privileges than other women. Showcasing women’s achievements in the financial industry and talking about the opportunities available is a great start to influence more interest for women in finance. I think making sure that all people have the best chance to succeed by motivating and encouraging individuals is the best way to embrace equity.
This year, in honour of IWD, we’re supporting Smart Works. A charity that provides both interview training and clothing to help low-income women in the U.K get jobs and gain financial independence. By harnessing the power of clothes and coaching, the charity aims to build confidence for job success. You can help us reach our target by donating here.
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