Khadija currently works as an Analyst in the Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) Risk team at NAB. Passionate about sustainability, Khadija studied a Bachelor of Engineering and a Masters of Environment and Sustainability at Monash University. She shared with us her career journey and experiences as well as the importance of sustainability risk in a top tier financial institution.
What is one piece of advice you would give to young women aspiring to work in a similar field and area to you? Can you tell us briefly what ESG Risk involves?
ESG Risk involves ensuring that environmental, social and governance risks are assessed, then avoided or mitigated. This can apply to a project, a company, etc. One of the ways we do this at NAB is by reviewing our customers’ performance in these areas to ensure that we are banking entities that align with our ESG strategies. We also do work internally to ensure that the bank is making practical commitments and adhering to them.
In my experience, and I believe this is changing, the ESG field is quite pink i.e. there seems to be more women than men in the field. So, if gender discrimination (skewed towards females) is something you’re worried about, this should not be a problem. Any woman who joins the field will therefore be working with other women who are passionate about ESG. Another piece of advice would be to stay up-to-date with happenings in the space. By doing this, you not only increase your knowledge but can also think of ways to apply what you’ve learned to your job and that would be a good way to impress your Manager.
How has NAB and the banking industry allowed you to progress in your career and pursue your passions? Have you faced any identity-based barriers in your career?
As a sustainability professional, I am glad to be working in the field I am passionate about, despite it being in an industry where the “green” connection can be difficult to make - some people find it interesting when they hear that I work in ESG at a bank. However, the ESG space in the corporate world has evolved from just CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) to actually drilling down into other issues that matter e.g. emissions output and how companies might be indirectly facilitating ESG problems. It’s encouraging that ESG issues are now being addressed in various industries, which allows me to pursue and grow in a field that’s more than just a career to me.
I cannot say that I have faced any identity-based barriers, which is saying a lot as I tick a number of minority demographic boxes. I came into the bank via the African Australian Inclusion Program (AAIP), which is a program run by NAB and an NGO called Jesuit Social Services. As the name alludes to, it gives African Australians the chance to get paid employment for at least 6 months. The AAIP program at NAB gave me my first ‘big girl’ job after University. I did apply to other organisations without success, but can I say that I didn’t get the jobs because of an identity I hold? No. However, I know that my experience does not mirror other peoples’.
Sustainability and the risks of climate change are such a huge issue for our generation. How do you think the banking industry, and businesses in general, are responding to the crisis, and how has it affected your career goals and aspirations?
Good question. I come from an “activist” background in that I was very involved in NGOs and somewhat shooting down the big guys, especially coal companies. So, when I got this role at NAB, it was a bit like “Uh oh, I’m now working for the bad guys”. However, in my first few months at the bank, I learnt about the various ways NAB was contributing to sustainability and realised that they were doing some positive things in the space. Can they do better? Of course. However, with the announcements from banks, in Australia and other countries, about their coal financing commitments for example, we see that the industry is not just sitting idle and doing nothing.
In the end, we have to think about the practicality of things and find a balance. These not-green industries are detrimental to the Earth. However, they also provide a means of livelihood to a number of people. How do we ensure that the transition to green benefits most of us?
That said, I have drawn a line regarding industries that I will not work with, especially if their values do not align with mine.
How did your studies at university prepare you for the workforce, and what piece of advice would you give to students?
My undergraduate degree was basically my introduction to environment and sustainability. My Masters degree then helped with providing me with more information about the subject. I was able to use some of these learnings and my educational background to highlight my passion and knowledge when applying for jobs.
Apart from the theoretical/practical knowledge you gain at University, you’re also learning about working in teams, conflict management, time management and other soft skills. These skills will come in useful when you’re at a job interview and on the job, so make sure you’re actively building them.
My advice to students would be to enjoy the Uni experience. You should also seek out internships or volunteer opportunities in the fields you are interested in. You want to ensure that you have a CV that clearly shows your passion for your field and also that you have demonstrated the skills and experience needed to land that job.
Do you have any notable female role models or mentors that have influenced you?
Amina J. Mohammed, the current Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations. Her journey inspires me and tells me that I can achieve similar things in my life.
If you have any questions for Khadija M-Williams, please:
1. Leave a comment under our Woman of the Week FB post, or
2. Email us at exec@WCPunimelb.com