The Great British Businesswoman Awards interviews Annabel Schaafsma - Managing Director of Mood

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Here at the Great British Businesswoman Awards, we pride ourselves on partnering with businesses who are striving to achieve the same as us - by empowering the businesswomen of the world and going the extra mile to help create equality in the workplace. 

We caught up with Annabel Schaafsma, Managing Director of Moody’s, the Great British Businesswoman Awards partner, to find out what life is like as a female Managing Director, her career journey, and what the Great British Businesswoman Awards mean to her. 

How have you found your experience of being a woman in charge of managing teams and people? E.g. have you faced any challenges, positive or negative etc? 

Good leaders, whether female or male, find a way to be authentic and bring the best out of their teams. For me, that has meant bringing my own, very collaborative leadership style, to the teams I manage. I look to connect with people, share my strategic objectives and understand their needs to make sure we can collectively succeed. I believe it is critical to listen actively, be empathetic and create space for an open honest dialogue. This has worked well for me as it has built trust and created engaged teams. 

In your 20 years at Moody’s have you noticed any changes in regards to women in business and the development of this topic? 

We have been on quite a journey at Moody’s since I first joined. We started the UK Women’s Business Resource group over 10 years ago which started as an employee engagement group to now partnering with the business to meet Moody’s strategic objectives.  As managers, we are committed to ensuring we have diverse slates as part of our recruitment process and we target to have at least 50% women at the entry-level.  We then have a number of internal development programs targeting diverse talent at different levels of the organisation.  I benefitted from a program targeted at senior women leaders in our organisation, which honed my strategic thinking skills and provided us with opportunities to engage with the senior leadership team.  This was hugely beneficial in expanding my network within the organisation as well as being very enjoyable!   

Looking across the financial services industry as a whole, I have seen some progress in the increase in the number of women in business over this time.  I am in fewer meetings where there are only men around the table which is positive, however, we still have some way before women are better represented at the senior level, and we need to see a firm commitment to change. For example, Moody’s has set an objective to only speak on a panel at a conference if there is at least one woman represented, but this is something that we all have a responsibility to tackle. 

So, what does it mean for you to be a part of this awards programme? What made you want to be a partner, and why do you believe you are a good fit?

We are very proud to sponsor Great British Businesswoman and the awards programmes strongly reflect our values and commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. For us, it is an opportunity to show that Moody’s is a great place to work for women and to our current and potential employees, customers and suppliers to know that we’re committed to progressive policies such as workplace flexibility, childcare, working families and paid parental leave that benefit all our employees. 

We have been fortunate to be consistently recognised for our achievements, with global awards, for example, the Financial Times Diversity Leaders, Investing in Ethnicity Maturity Matrix and Working Mother magazine in their 100 Best Companies list for supporting working parents’ success at home and at work and for demonstrating leadership in advancing women, workplace flexibility, childcare, working families and paid parental leave.

What do you predict for the future of women in business, for both Moody’s and other businesses? 

At Moody’s our focus is on building an inclusive workplace for all our employees. As part of this, we have set ourselves challenging global goals to increase the representation of women in the global workforce, particularly in leadership. In 2021 we published our inaugural Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Report to be transparent and accountable about our commitments and progress. 

As a business, we help decision-makers to manage risk and identify opportunities by providing trusted insights and standards. We’re applying that same approach to help make our industry a more inclusive and welcoming place for women. We have partnered with the Women in Banking and Finance to sponsor their Accelerating Change Together Research Programme, which is designed to bring a gender lens and change to better support and retain women working in the UK financial services industry.

As well as the future of other women in business, we’d love to hear a bit more about what you’re doing at the moment with Moody’s, and what’s in store for both you and the business?

I have just taken on a global role heading up the analytical team for Structured Finance ratings so my main focus is on understanding the business and how we plan to deliver on our strategic objectives.  I am on a ‘listening tour’ with a variety of internal and external stakeholders to understand their needs, what my team does well and where we have opportunities to improve.  I am also getting to know my management team and their broader teams to support them to bring their full selves to work so we can collectively be successful.

At Moody’s, we will continue to expand our policies, programmes and events to better serve the needs of our women employees. We’ll also continue to make our values visible across everything we do – for example, last year we launched our Gender & Finance hub to honour International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, and will continue to support these initiatives. 

Our UK Women’s Business Resource Group (BRG) has been instrumental in bringing women’s issues to the table, such as Imposter Syndrome and collaborated with our other BRGs on intersectional events in areas, for example, Intersex awareness.  Again in 2021, the Group launched a ‘Menopause in the Workplace programme’ for all employees to raise awareness on a topic that is still seen as taboo and to have ‘courageous conversations’ on the effects on our work-life and wellbeing. The programme has been very well received by women and men across the company and is supported with a menopause guide and is now included in our healthcare plan.

Lastly, If you had one piece of advice for those women looking to open their own business or those within businesses, what would it be?

Be bold – this is what I would have said to my younger self and it is what I advise colleagues that I mentor now.  Never forget you have a seat at the table for a good reason, and people want to hear your views and ideas.