Women in IR: Five questions with RWE’s Gunhild Grieve

The head of IR at the German energy giant and speaker at this week’s Women in IR event in London on why fewer women make it into the top jobs, what diversity looks like at RWE and what other companies can do to make sure more women make it to the top in IR

Click here for more information or to book your place at the Women in IR networking evening, Wednesday, September 13 at Edelman’s offices in London. Or if you’re in the US or Canada, check out our upcoming events in the series in New York, San Francisco and Toronto.

Were you surprised by IR Magazine’s finding that two thirds of head-of-IR jobs go to men? 

Not entirely, though I was still disappointed to see it in black and white. It seems to be a similar story to other finance professions where we see a much higher level of female representation in the early stages of the career before it drops off when moving up the career ladder.

What do you see as some of the key issues contributing to this imbalance?

Many professionals in the investor relations field come from a finance background where female representation is also still low. On top of this, at times the role can be very time-intensive and requires a certain amount of travel, which can prove more difficult within certain stages of a woman’s life.

Our research finds that of the FTSE 100, S&P 100, S&P TSX 60 and the DAX, the DAX has the lowest level of female representation in top IR roles – at just 13 percent when we ran the research in February. What are your thoughts on this? 

This is very disappointing and we should work hard to rectify this number. I am, however, pleased to say that both RWE and [our renewable energy subsidiary] innogy have female heads of IR. Also, I am proud that half of the IR professionals in my team are women.

What should companies be doing to address the issue, and what advice would you offer women looking to climb the IR career ladder?

It starts at the recruitment stage. Companies should actively involve the IR team in their recruitment effort. IR talks to the capital markets day in, day out about why they should invest in the company – why should it not also convince female students to join the company and interest them in IR? But it also helps if companies set targets for female representation at management level. Initially, I was against targets, but now I believe companies are more likely to start initiatives to attract and develop more women if they do have targets in place.

I would also advise women to include a stint in a finance department at some point in their career. Be proactive and outspoken and don’t shy away from providing input into financial and strategic topics.

Finally, recent years have seen an increased focus on diversity, both in the boardroom and across corporations in general. Is this an area you’ve seen investors become increasingly interested in, and where do you see this focus going over the next year or so? 

No, unfortunately I have not yet seen an increasing interest in diversity. So far, the pressure on increasing female representation, especially in the boardroom, has rather come from NGOs and politicians.

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