An interview with Sally Jones-Evans: Breaking down barriers in the male-dominated world of finance
Having started her career at the age of eighteen, Delio’s non-executive director Sally Jones-Evans has built up decades of experience at some of the UK’s largest organisations. We spoke with her to find out what she had seen on her journey into senior management, how this had impacted her career, and how she had helped other women along the way.
How did your career begin?
I wanted to get started in the real world straight away. Instead of going to university, I chose to develop my skills through lifelong learning and professional development. Prior to embarking on a portfolio career of board work, I worked in retail banking for thirty years. I spent years moving around customer-facing roles and departments at the front line of organisations, gaining a broad skill set and developing an understanding of what really drives customer value, before moving into executive roles.
I will always be really grateful for the training and development offered to me at Lloyds Banking Group, as I was able to take advantage of opportunities such as being supported and sponsored to complete an MBA, and studying at Harvard on their Programme for Management Development .
During your time at Lloyds, you founded and co-chaired the Breakthrough Women’s Network which was created to help ambitious women fulfil their career potential. Could you tell us more about this?
When I first started working in banking in the 1980s and 90s, there were very few women who progressed into senior management roles; I was one of only a handful that did.
Financial services were dominated by women in junior, client-facing roles, with men taking much more senior positions. I had never faced discrimination and I didn’t believe there was a toxic culture towards women, so I knew the opportunity to progress was there. However, I wanted to do something that actively encouraged women into senior management and leadership roles.
The Breakthrough Women’s Network was born from my desire to be part of the solution for women. Myself and a few like-minded senior female peers from various career backgrounds established the network to offer a focus on career development. We wanted to instil confidence in women, empower them to take bold steps that would benefit their careers and move up the career ladder, and to take the chances many may have overlooked in the past.
By offering access to mentors, we were able to create a safe space where women could share thoughts and ask questions relating to their careers and working lives. It was a fantastic way to create a community of support, gain allies and build momentum. After a while, we began to collaborate with other networks and look at workplace inclusion from a wider lens, including the Pride Network.
Have you seen a significant change in culture at that top level of businesses?
I definitely have. It is a truism proven by the 30% club that once you have about a third of a minority group in a room together, it completely changes the dynamic.
Nowadays, it feels like more women realise that there are fewer barriers in their way to forging ahead in their career. Storytelling is so important and I’m always humbled by how many women are willing to share their own personal career stories. I think by doing this, other women can realise that these business leaders are just normal people, not superheroes, and this can encourage them to strive towards reaching ambitious targets in their own career.
What would you say to women looking to progress to a senior position in a company?
Really learn about yourself. You need to start with a real understanding and confidence in who you are, what you’re good at, what you have to offer, what you love doing, and what brings you energy.
Don’t rush to find these answers; it’s ok not to know very early on. When you do understand yourself, have the courage to go for it. Once, in the earlier stages of my career, my dream job would go to a different person, a man, and I got really grumpy that I hadn’t progressed. Once I got over the frustration, I realised I hadn’t told anyone I wanted the job. I hadn’t applied! I took ownership of that realisation, and channelled the learning from that experience, at a formative moment in my career, to realise I had to find a way to speak to my bosses and peers and communicate more clearly what I wanted.
You’ve worked with a diverse variety of organisations in your career. What attracted you to Delio?
Delio is such a contrast to my other work in bigger, more established organisations. To work with a young, dynamic, fast-growing business in the fintech sector is enormously exciting.
On a personal level, I love the Welsh connections Delio has. The creation of new employment opportunities in Wales, in fantastic skill areas that are marketable for the future, really attracted me to the whole proposition.
What do you think companies and the fintech sector as a whole can do to be more accessible to women interested in working in the industry?
I think it is so important that schools’ curriculum and youth organisations really start trying to change unconscious biases early, a sentiment echoed by Delio as demonstrated in their International Women’s Day article. By promoting positive biases, girls may be more attracted to STEM subjects and start to believe that careers in finance, business or technology are genuinely available to them.
I was really happy to see that the Brownies and Guides are introducing new badges based on coding skills, as opposed to the laundry and cooking badges I had when I was growing up! I’m really proud I have the opportunity to lean into this area. I am delighted that Delio is creating opportunities for students to work via their graduate scheme, which is really valuable. The more that can be done in this space to attract women into this sector, the better.