Women in Business Panel at the University of Edinburgh Business School

Women in Business with EY, RBS and PwC

What are the opportunities and challenges facing women in business? Our Women in Business panel shared insights from their experience in some of the top financial firms in Edinburgh.

The School council recently teamed up with the Business Society to host female leaders from EY, RBS and PwC, who shared their experiences and advice as members of our first Women in Business Panel.

We had some amazing speakers, kicking off with an introduction from Emily Jones, president of Edinburgh Undergraduate Women in Business (www.euwib.com) and Ambassador for Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business.

Lucy Everett, Employer Engagement Manager at the university Careers Service, followed with a reminder that gender is a protected characteristic in the recruitment process. The Association of Graduate Recruiters survey this year found that 59.9% of graduate employers identify gender as being of high priority in their recruitment efforts in terms of increasing diversity in their work forces.  The message was, that you can apply for all the opportunities out there. 

Insights from the panel

Women in Business Panel from EY, RBS and PwC
The Women in Business Panel

EY – Victoria Masney

Victoria works in tax at EY, and shared some extremely useful advice for our students.

It may be comforting for some to learn that EY’s recruitment process is initially completely blind – that is, they do not consider grades, gender, or where your degree was attained, and online tests are not timed. Echoing what Lucy Everett mentioned, EY have also found that women aren’t applying for as many jobs as men, despite the fact that there are some great opportunities on offer.

Useful advice and opportunities from EY:

  • Discover EY (Technology) – London (16.01.17) Application Deadline: 11.12.16
  • Discover EY (Assurance and Tax) – London (12/13.04.17) Application Deadline: 19.02.17
  • Industrial Placement schemes (various)
  • Internships and Graduate Opportunities (various) – including January and April intakes, for those of you who are still unsure of what you want to do, but may wish to apply later!

For more information on all of these: http://www.ey.com/uk/en/careers/students

Victoria’s key tips were

  • Don’t try to be someone your not. Be yourself, and if you want to ask questions, don’t be afraid to ask. Otherwise, let your work speak for itself
  • Support yourself – don’t look for others to be your cheerleaders. After all, if you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else?

EY also have a Women in Business programme that organises speeches, talks and other events and activities, all of which support their goal for workforce equality as they strive for a 50/50 gender split. They can also offer very flexible work arrangements to accommodate various lifestyles (which may be valuable for those who have commitments that may require working from home).

RBS – Udita Banerjee

Udita Banerjee, having graduated from the University of Edinburgh with an MSc in Electronics in 2013, now works in technology and innovation for RBS and offered some surprising statistics about women in the recruitment process. For example, women will only apply for jobs if they think they are 97% capable or suited to the role (men will apply if they think they are 70% suited). For candidates with equal qualifications, its clearly not about experience but rather about how we’re wired to think.

Udita also noted that we won’t see more women in senior leadership positions without first seeing more women in middle management positions. This in turn calls for more female graduates from disciplines such as finance, technology and business. The fundamental issue is to address gender quotas throughout the timeline of women’s careers.

Useful opportunities from RBS include:

  • Female Insights Programme –  this week offers you the opportunity to shadow senior RBS employees, and may gain you fast-track access to the 10 week summer internship programme, which in turn may lead to a graduate placement (you will be assessed at the end of each programme and offered a placement if your manager is happy with your work). Visit: http://yourpassionyourpotential.rbs.com/pages/internships-female-insight-week
  • Summer Internship opportunities – http://yourpassionyourpotential.rbs.com/pages/internships
  • Graduate Programmes – http://yourpassionyourpotential.rbs.com/pages/graduates

Udita’s advice included:

  • 90% of interns are offered graduate placements, and 80% accept these placements.
  • Opportunities are available in various departments, ranging from banking and finance, to marketing – so there’s really something for everyone!
  • Applicants with so-called ‘relevant’ degrees are actually the minority. All you need to do is demonstrate a passion for the area in which you are applying.
  • Phone interviews – do this in an environment in which you feel comfortable. You’ll feel more relaxed and it will encourage you to give more natural answers. Also, remember that the person on the other end of the call is not there to catch you out, and the interview will get easier after a few minutes.

PwC – Claire Burhouse

Claire Burhouse has worked for PwC for more than 13 years, and currently holds the position of Student Recruitment Manager for Scotland, having previously also worked in tax.

At PwC, they really care about employee retention, which makes sense given the time and effort they invest in recruiting students! Their roles offer global mobility – that is, the opportunity to move around and experience the company throughout its many office destinations.

There are a lot of opportunities on offer, so it is up to you to set yourself apart from others and go for it. As long as you are prepared, well-researched and focused, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t have the same chance as any other applicants (in particular, your male counterparts).

Useful advice and opportunities from PwC:

  • Try not to focus on your weaknesses – think positively and highlight your strengths and why you should be offered an opportunity or placement, and be confident in your abilities.
  • Identify the areas where you have room to improve, and have the self-awareness and self-confidence to develop in these areas.
  • Be yourself and let your work speak for itself. (This was a common theme throughout the evening!)
  • Interviews – remember that you are in a room with potential employers and they are there to get to know you, and only you, in that time. so don’t hesitate to talk about yourself until your heart’s content – that’s why you’re there!
  • Telephone interviews – smile! It will reflect in your tone of voice and you will sound more engaging! Also, don’t speak too quickly, and remember to breathe. If it helps, have some useful bullet points handy, but don’t prepare a full script or you might sound too rehearsed.
  • Women in Business Week (relevant experience not necessary) – this is a 1 week paid placement offering you the chance to shadow, gain insights and absorb everything about being a woman working at PwC. Take away the information you have gained and judge whether its the right career or workplace for you. These placements can also offer fast-track opportunities to their summer internship and graduate scheme programmes.
  • The opportunities are on offer, you just have to get yourself out there and seize them!

Thanks again to all of the women who came out to speak to us last week, you’re advice was extremely helpful and we really appreciate it! A key message that we can take away from this event is that there are opportunities for women out there, and we should be striving to empower each other to make sure that our female students have the self-confidence and conviction to go after them.

We hope to see many more of you at our future events!



Published by

Matthew Mackay, Communications Chair for the University of Edinburgh Business School Council

Matthew Mackay

Matthew Mackay is a 4th year undergraduate student at the University of Edinburgh Business School studying Business with Marketing (MA Hons). He currently holds the position of Communications Chair for the University of Edinburgh Business School Council.