Brenda Trenowden, Global Chair of the 30% Club, passionately advocates for gender diversity in business, and greater representation of women on boards.
By Marie Moore
Brenda Trenowden’s career in finance is undeniably impressive. The Halifax-raised, Queen’s University-educated, self-professed ‘citizen of the world’ has lived and worked across the globe, from the trading floor in London, England, to Dhaka, Bangladesh, where she helped set up the country’s first foreign investment bank. Her resume includes a number of the world’s biggest financial institutions, such as Citi, BNP Paribas, Lloyds Banking Group and BNY Mellon. In 2014, Brenda joined ANZ (Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited). She’s currently Head of Financial Institutions, Europe and Head of Banks and Diversified Financials, Americas.
Even more impressive than her finance career? Brenda’s dedication to making positive change through her passionate involvement in gender diversity initiatives.
Brenda sits on the board of City Women Network (CWN), an organization in London that helps connect, develop, and advance senior women in business. She spent three years as President of CWN, before leaving the role in April 2015 to take on another prominent position in the gender diversity sphere: Global Chair of the 30% Club.
“There are many different women’s groups out there, and we’re all trying to improve gender balance,” Brenda explains, “The difference with the 30% Club is that it’s a campaign.”
Founded in the U.K. in 2010—with Brenda on the Steering Committee—the Club’s goal was to achieve a minimum of 30% women on FTSE-100 boards by the end 2015. And they’ve come close: current figures stand at 26.1%, up from 12.5% at the organization’s inception.
The success they have had in motivating the business community to change has led to expansion into other countries around the world. Brenda was already managing the leadership of the organization on a day-to-day basis when the 30% Club came to Canada in 2015. She acted as champion for the new chapter, not only offering encouragement, but also sharing best practices and advice to help the Club meet its goal of 30% of board seats in Canada held by women by 2019.
Brenda sees her former home and native land as an important country in the global economy, and a potential leader for gender diversity: “Since the onset of the financial crisis in 2008, the world watched as Canadian banks weathered the storm, thanks to their good governance. If we can get the banks to take the lead on this, they could really make a difference. In other industries, too, especially in natural resources and technology, Canada is a leading player. The international community expects Canadians to be further along on this front.”
As it stands, we’re sitting around the middle of the pack (a pack that isn’t doing so well on a global basis). Unfortunately, the poor representation of women at the top levels of business is, in Brenda’s words, “a global phenomenon.” To help tackle the problem, she’s dedicated to expanding the reach of the 30% Club, and to continuing the development of initiatives to broaden the pipeline for women at all levels, “from schoolroom to boardroom.”
In addition to its strong relationship with the business community, the 30% Club partners with universities with the aim of helping more women reach influential positions in business. The Club offers a range of women’s scholarships, including two for the Executive MBA program at Brenda’s alma mater, Smith School of Business at Queen’s University. In a recent interview with QSB Magazine (now called Smith Magazine), Brenda explained how a bursary made it possible for her to attend the top business school and study Commerce, a goal she’d seen as out of reach.
Brenda graduated in 1989 with an honours Bachelor of Commerce degree, the first step in her incredible global journey. She’s still closely involved with the school as a member of the Smith Global Council, and a Trustee of Queen’s University’s Bader International Study Centre in Sussex, England. Even as a ‘global citizen,’ she hasn’t forgotten her roots.