Claire Thornhill

 

Claire is an investment analyst at CI Investments, one of Canada’s largest investment fund companies, where she is responsible for the energy and industrial equity investments in her team’s portfolios. She has worked in the capital markets since graduating in 2006, spending seven years on the proprietary trading desk at Susquehanna International Group (SIG) in Dublin, Ireland, before moving to Toronto in 2013 with her husband Diarmuid. She is an active member of Women in Capital Markets, Women in Finance and the Irish Chamber of Commerce and also currently serves on the board of the Ireland Fund of Canada’s Young Leaders branch.

Claire has an Bachelor of Business in Economics and Finance and a Masters in Finance from the University of Limerick.

What is your experience of a glass ceiling?

I have worked in capital markets for 12 years and am lucky enough to say that I have never felt my gender has held me back when it came to promotions and other career opportunities. But do I think my gender will make it harder for me to advance in the future? Depressingly I think the answer is yes. It probably sounds cliche to say that I didn’t start to see a glass ceiling until I got closer to it but today I am more aware of it than ever. This is in large part because I’ve reached an intersection in my life where the opportunity to move to the next level of my career is presenting itself at around the same time as I am inclined to make a decision about starting a family. I personally don’t see this as an ‘either/or’ decision but I can say with confidence that a decision by me to pursue the latter would definitely impact my opportunity to progress in former, at least in the short term.

What advice do you have for others in business, particularly women? 

Be visbile. Sometimes as a woman we operate on the mentality that good work will speak for itself, but other than building a reputation for yourself as dependable, quietly performing will do very little to improve your prospects of moving up the corporate ladder.  Aside from promoting yourself and your work whenever you can, your network is one of the most important things you can lean on to progress in your career. Building and maintaining relationships with senior executives or having an influential sponsor is sometimes the difference between getting the promotion/opportunity and not.

What is your opinion on quotas and the gender pay gap?

At a fundamental level I don’t believe in quotas. I think corporations need to focus more on the supply side of the problem i.e finding ways to keep highly talented women in the workforce and on track for high level executive positions, rather than forcing a corporation to choose from a shrinking pool of experienced female candidates. Subsidized childcare, family friendly offices and flexible hours are all obvious ways to help with this, as is the development and promotion of networking activities to ensure women don’t lose out on that aspect of career development if they are out of work on maternity leave or are forced to miss out on evening events because of family commitments.

The gender pay gap issue is a baffling one for me. It becomes more apparent the longer you are in your career, and often it takes something like a casual discussion with male colleagues over drinks before you realize how wide the gap has gotten since you started out. Greater transparency would help but often that is not realistic, so firm-wide independent compensation reviews by some external assessor should be considered. I think the problem is so ingrained in the system that often the employer doesn’t realize it is an issue until the numbers are put in front of them.

Are you aware of government certifications and schemes for women in business?

I am involved with a number of organizations in Toronto that do great work promoting and helping women in their careers, such as Women in Capital Markets, Women in Finance and most recently the Irish Chamber of Commerce’s Women’s Network, but I am not aware of any official government certifications or schemes available.

What do you think the #MeToo movement needs to do in order to make a huge impact in women’s professional lives?

#MeToo has triggered a unbelievable global reaction and I see tangible evidence of the impact it has had in my everyday live. Female colleagues and friends are no longer willing to put up with sexual comments or innuendo that make them feel uncomfortable and more and more of them are speaking up to say they’ve finally had enough. The important thing from here is to make sure this achievement doesn’t get diluted away by the misuse of #MeToo to cover everything from a bad date to a clumsy comment. While women are well within their right to raise their greivances about anything that makes them uncomfortable, I think #MeToo needs to stay focused on its original intent – to end sexual harassment in the workplace. Making that completely unacceptable would help sow the seeds of a corporate culture where women arrive and leave the office as equals, so that when our sons and daughters join the workforce the idea that women and men were ever paid or treated differently will seem laughable.