International Women’s Day – an interview with, Joanne Fenech Managing Director of Affinity (Malta)

Tell us about your career progress to board level? What has your own experience been? What support have you had and what challenges have you faced?

I am forever grateful when I was given the opportunity to join the Affinity board in 2015 after working for more than 15 years in the financial services sector. The role was immediately approved by the Maltese regulator as we operate within a strict regulatory environment. Thankfully I have never looked back since. I must admit that luckily total support from my family is never short.

Challenges are part and parcel of the job and in a way what leads to more job satisfaction and motivation. Surely taking effective informed decisions in various scenarios was most challenging.

As a leader in the business, how do you see your responsibilities, particularly relating to your female colleagues?

The truth is I see no difference or exercising preference when leading men or women. Everyone has distinctive attitudes, skills and behaviours which can evolve into positive achievements if managed with a transformational approach. I simply hate the control and command style, I never believed in it and it is just not me. I prefer leading from the centre rather than the top down command. Basically the aptitude to build strong relationships across levels and communicating directly whilst maximising the team members strengths and understanding their weaknesses which can be turned into opportunities if managed wisely. Let’s face it we are all different and using this diversity sensibly will lead to a sustained competitive advantage. We strongly believe in our human talent as our greatest capital.

How does Affinity Group support the development of female colleagues and why does the company believe it’s important to take these steps?

I am lucky to be part of a group that believes in diversity and equal opportunities based on knowledge and experience with no gender preference. Our female COO, Group Compliance and Senior Accounts Managers across both jurisdictions is a testament to this. Please let us not forget that the Malta office’s MD is a female too.

Speaking to peers at other companies, what is the general feeling about the opportunities for women to progress to leadership roles?

Women’s progress moved miles from even just a decade ago. Nowadays we have women leading countries, women heading international influential organisations, women managing Fortune 100 firms, women thriving in successful start-ups in various sectors, and most of these in addition hold important dual roles as mothers, which at time believe me it is not easy. Are we there yet? Not really. There are so many women out there that can progress into leadership roles and flourish if given the opportunity fairly with no gender preference or unnecessary oppression. Most regretfully although we are in the 21st century for some women this is perceived as an unreachable dream.

Looking back, what three pieces of advice do you have for your younger self?

Always remember that the Chinese proverb “every journey starts with the first step”.
Truly believe where there is a will there is a way!
It is never too late to pursue with your studies and dreams.