One of the more forward thinking financial executives, Ranu Sharma, Head of International O&T Finance, Vocalink recently shared her insights with Jack McCullough.  Jack is President & Founder, CFO Leadership Council and Senior Contributor to Forbes CFO Network.  His recent interview is below.

One of the more forward thinking financial executives I have met is Ranu Sharma, the head of international operations and technology finance at Vocalink, a MasterCard company. In addition to the traditional financial and strategic responsibilities this role would incur, she also serves as the London lead for diversity and inclusion efforts at Mastercard.

Ranu Sharma, Head of International O&T Finance, Vocalink

Last year, Ranu was recognized as one of the top 100 global women role models on Yahoo Finances’ HERoes list, and gave an extremely well-received TEDx talk on eliminating stereotypes of financial professionals which you can (and should) check out here. Spoiler: master the numbers but look beyond them for meaningful insight.

Our paths crossed in 2020 when we were both featured speakers at a finance conference in London (it was the last event we attended before the pandemic) and recently caught up with her to discuss how she and Vocalink survived Covid, and her vision for the company and her finance team going forward. Below are some highlights of our conversation.

She and I are of different generations, and at the risk of generalizing, my generation (Baby Boomers) has been skeptical about work from home initiatives, while her generation (Millennials) and younger ones have been more open to them. I think the pandemic taught us that both sides were correct. Boomers recognize how we can work productively and safely from home, and younger generations have developed a better appreciation for the relationships that can be formed by working in close proximity.

Ranu agrees with this but believes that companies need to become more family friendly with WFH and other initiatives. “If there is one thing that pandemic has taught us, it’s that we can do our jobs from home. As a mother, I can whole heartedly say that having a company that is supportive, strives in looking after its employees the way Mastercard does, I have been able to do a remarkable job whilst home schooling and being under lockdown.”

The performance of her and her team are proof that WFH initiatives can be successful, provided they are supported by senior leadership, and the team makes the commitment. Ranu says that this will give companies advantages in recruiting and retaining female employees.  “Women naturally are the care givers in most cases. They want to work, want to build a successful career but sometimes, the lack of flexibility in the workplace lets them down”

“We can attract more women into more senior positions and into industries where they are widely underrepresented today, if we simply support their way of working and give them a chance to dictate to us how they want to work. What works for them, will eventually work for us in the long run.” Some examples she cited include day care vouchers, flexible time (not just work-from-home) and on-site creches (nurseries).

Ranu has spent considerable energy  breaking stereotypes on how mothers struggle to excel in their careers. “I have proven time and time again that you can have both a passion for your career and be an excellent mother all at the same time.”

I did ask her a question that I hate asking, since I almost never ask it of men. Is her husband an equal partner in raising their children? Indeed, he is, and she acknowledges that many of her successes would have been more challenging without his commitment (as would his have been without her commitment). We can and do make a huge difference in our partners’ careers.

In addition to her work at Vocalink and on the public speaking circuit, Ranu coaches young teenagers as part of two charities, “The Working Options Group” and “The Girls Network,” and has written several articles on diversity and inclusion, and emphasizes that being a woman of color does not put any ceilings on how high she can climb. She also serves as a mentor to several up-and-coming professionals.

Millennials continue to assume leadership roles in the corporate world and to put their unique imprint on society. Ranu is a great role model for any finance professional (from any generation) as companies emerge from the pandemic and look to find  sustainable competitive advantages in the new age. Her track record of building a great team and keeping it together and productive during a pandemic is one we should all aspire to.

About Jack McCullough

Jack McCullough is a recognized thought leader in the field of financial leadership, with a career that has included CFO positions at 26 companies. He founded the CFO Leadership Council, a global organization dedicated to empowering senior financial executives through innovative professional development programs and peer networking. His other accomplishments include chairing the MIT Sloan CFO Summit, and creating the vision behind CFO Week, a one-of-a-kind learning and networking experience jointly executed by the CFO Leadership Council and MIT Sloan. He is a contributor to Forbes.com, where he writes for the CFO Network on challenges and opportunities facing financial leaders.  He is an entertaining and insightful public speaker, and has spoken to thousands of CFOs, and is frequently contacted by members of the media who appreciate his candor, insight and wit.

Jack McCullough is a regular Forbes contributor.  Click here to read more of his recent articles.

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