If Marieke Desmet (MFA2017) could change one thing about the way that women do business, it would be to have women stop apologising for their success. The Belgium native, an investment banking analyst with Morgan Stanley and a Masters in Financial Analysis alumna from London Business School (LBS), wishes women would take more time to celebrate their abilities.
“I believe it’s so important to take your moment to shine, whether you’re an intern, an analyst or a senior professional. Women should share their success, speak up more and have their voices heard.”
And she speaks from experience. Marieke has long wanted to pursue a career in finance. An early internship with ING in commercial banking consolidated a sense of passion for the sector and in 2015 brought her from Belgium to London.
“I wanted to move into strategic financial planning with companies and business organisations and that meant getting closer to the action – and there’s no better place than London for that. There was also no better school than LBS. The Masters in Financial Analysis (MFA) was recommended by friends as the ideal programme to pick up the strategy skills and tools to move my career forward. When I visited the LBS campus and discovered how unique and innovative the MFA programme was, I instantly knew I’d found the perfect platform for my personal and professional development. ”
Joining the MFA, Marieke and her fellow female classmates resolved to make their presence – and contribution – felt. “Something that we believed, and that I still believe, is that it’s only when you speak up that you see change and progress. This is part of the core philosophy at LBS, and it completely informed our modus operandi as a cohort. I have no doubt that this culture of speaking out has helped me become a more confident person.”
At LBS, Marieke built a tight network of fellow MFA and other students, including MBAs and students on the Masters in Management, and faculty – bonds that have endured and form the basis of what she today calls her “London family.”
“For everyone it’s important to have a strong network, but for women in particular having female role models to relate to at every level of experience is really helpful in your career path. When you have a connection or a mentor who is further down the line you can appreciate the challenges of things like family priorities and seeing your own career 10 or 20 years from now.” And the challenges for women are plentiful, says Marieke. Especially in her sector.
“It can be tough. In finance there’s more parity early on in your career, but female representation in senior ranks remains an issue. And while many key players are making efforts to resolve this, the reality is that most jobs could be more flexible, and both women and men would benefit from this.”
Speaking up on issues like gender representation is very much a part of Marieke’s experience and philosophy. And it’s an approach she wants to communicate to other women coming up behind her. Recently she was invited by Morgan Stanley to take part in graduate recruitment events to share her perspective.
“At these events I have noticed that some women can come across as self-doubting and lacking in confidence. I would love to see more young women realise how smart they are and show it.”
Part of this means opening herself up to other young women who reach out for advice. Contacts she makes at recruitment and other events, she says, are welcome to come to her with questions and doubts. “At Morgan Stanley women support each other, regardless of hierarchy or superiority,” says Marieke. “We have a Women’s Business Alliance which enables us to gain advice and to ask for feedback from a broad network of employees. Young women considering getting into finance or business should be proactive in reaching out to other women and build up their networks. I always respond to women I’ve met who need advice. It’s time we supported each other more at every level.”