Working mums’ champion

Carolanne Minashi from UBS won’s most recent Working Mums’ Champion award.


Carolanne Minashi’s motivation for the work she does championing diversity and equality at global financial services company UBS stems from personal and professional experience, but is also part of a long family tradition of promoting social justice.

Carolanne, who is Managing Director – Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion at UBS, has worked in financial services all her working life and has four children and her oldest is 25. “Twenty five years ago the financial services industry was not the most inclusive place for working mums. I learned first hand about some of the unintended challenges associated with being a young mum. I always innately had a sense of the fairness issues and organisational barriers they faced,” she says, adding that she was always trying to effect change even before she worked in diversity and inclusion.

What’s more, her great aunt was a suffragette and campaigned for women’s right to vote and to be ordained. “When I found that out it seemed as if this fight for fairness, equality and justice was in my blood,” she adds.

Gender pay gap

Carolanne joined UBS in 2016 to lead its Group D&I strategy and has been at the forefront of UBS’s effort to report and narrow the UK Gender Pay Gap (GPG) as well as being involved in similar reporting in France. She works with the reward team to ensure pay equity, taking extra care to adjust any inconsistency, particularly when determining that bonus payments for people on or post maternity leave are consistent.

To this end she has implemented a global gender strategy articulated around “hire more, lose less, promote more”. This has included the introduction of aspirational targets and metrics and bringing more accountability from senior management. Thanks in large part to her work, the firm has made a 1% year on year progress in representation of women in senior positions. Gender inclusion is now woven into every part of the HR function, from recruiting to learning and rewards and Carolanne has been able to win senior buy-in for a range of diversity initiatives and she has been keen to share what she is doing.

Another area which falls under her brief is sexual harassment. Carolanne was appointed a Global Sexual Misconduct and Harassment Guardian and has since rolled out respect at work training to the entire organisation and specialist training on how to investigate sexual misconduct cases to employee relations teams globally as well as introducing a confidential hotline for reporting and care pathways for those impacted by investigations.


Carolanne believes firmly that collaboration is the key to driving change. Given every organisation is facing similar challenges with regard to diversity and inclusion, she feels that it is important to share ideas, what does and doesn’t work and best practice. She has long been keen to join up with other multinationals across sectors to find out about innovative practice and to link up with researchers to test ideas and bridge the gap between practitioners and academia. And she spends a lot of her time talking to colleagues at all levels of the business about what the trends might be, what their challenges are and what she can practically do to address them.

“It’s important to talk about what you are struggling with and to share what you know. Everyone has a different context, but different ideas can be translated into other organisations,” says Carolanne, who is a member of Catalyst EMEA Advisory Board, a global leading organisation on gender equality, as well as the Women’s Leadership Board for Women and Public Policy faculty at Harvard Kennedy School.

For Carolanne, insights from practitioners and academics provide much needed evidence of what does and doesn’t work and are important for ensuring innovation is effective. Evidence is vital for making a strong business case and for changing mindsets, she says, and at UBS that also means testing what works through pilots which focus on one country or one part of the business. Based on those, initiatives can be tweaked and scaled and employers can be more confident that they will work. “It’s a high risk to come up with something very innovative and roll it out across the whole organisation otherwise,” says Carolanne.

One example of how pilots can result in widescale change, based on hard data, is her former employer Citi’s 2012 remote working trial for the Olympics and Paralympics. Citi enabled all staff to work remotely in this period and ran analysis alongside to look at the behaviour impact for people who did not normally work from home. It provided evidence that people who were working remotely used their normal commuting time to work and were as productive as when they were in the office. “They recycled their commuting time as productive working time. Until then there was some cynicism about homeworking, the evidence showed productivity stayed the same and well being went up and that evidence was used to build a better business case for taking bolder decisions,” says Carolanne.

She says attitudes to remote working have changed massively in the last decade and that it has been destigmatised, with employers like UBS able to design offices that take into account that not everyone will need a desk space every day. COVID-19 could also have a big impact on future office design.

Internal collaboration and input from the grassroots up is also a vital ingredient of success. UBS employs 65,000 people in over 50 countries. Carolanne says it is important for the diversity and inclusion team to build good relationships with other parts of the business and get sponsors on board who support what it is doing. In such a complex organisation, the team needs to ensure it has its ear to the ground and is open to ideas from all over the business.

For that reason Carolanne set up the Group Diversity & Inclusion Council. The council is small, but has representation from all of the major UBS divisions. It meets quarterly and there is a lot of back and forth in between. The aim is to share best practice and address joint challenges. It is where Carolanne chats through her more creative ideas and gets feedback.

“It’s an amazing group of people who are already championing diversity and inclusion which makes it easier. Their contribution helps my thinking and ensures we find the best solutions,” she says. One idea that has come out of the council is on parental leave. UBS has won awards for its policies on Shared Parental Leave and enhanced maternity leave in the UK [both offer 26 weeks on full pay], but Carolanne is keen to move to a point where it can offer a general neutral parental leave policy globally. She says it makes no sense to wait for all the different countries it operates in to change their laws on parental leave. Instead she wants UBS to agree minimum global standards and is looking at the best way to make the business case for that.

Carolanne has led UBS’ approach to SPL implementation which has been influential across the UK. She realised that it was not enough to enhance the leave. Many employers were tethering enhanced pay to the birth date of the baby when most fathers were more likely to take leave later on after babies had been weaned and mothers had fully recovered from childbirth. Given men were unlikely to take unpaid leave, it made sense to untether Shared Parental Pay and allow men to benefit at any time during their baby’s first year. “Otherwise you were just giving something with one hand and taking it away with another,” says Carolanne.

She also realised early on that, to increase take-up of SPL required lots of communication, training and role modelling of early pioneers, making it clear that the policy was open to everyone. Over the last three years the company has seen uptake doubling every year across all ranks and divisions, with the average time dads take off being 12 weeks.


Another policy change Carolanne has driven and is very proud of is UBS’ returner initiative, which won’s first Best for Returners Top Employer Award in 2018. The aim of the UBS Career Comeback programme is to increase the number of women in senior roles. It was unusual when it was launched in that it guarantees real senior level jobs from day one and Carolanne says that that approach has been successful and opened up an untapped talent pool of women to the business – not just those who were in financial services and left, but also those in aligned industries.

“The normal recruitment processes were inadequate to bring them back. The returner programme is a disruptor. It challenges biases and enables us to hire more women at the director level, and get from A to B in the shortest time,” says Carolanne.

The programme was introduced first in Switzerland in 2016 then in the USA and the UK, and more recently in India, Poland and Hong Kong. UBS did trial a returnship approach beforehand so they were able to compare and contrast how they worked, but Carolanne believes that women don’t really want a “12-week job interview”.

“If women want to pick up a corporate role they have to change everything about their lives and you don’t want to make that adjustment in the hope that you get a job,” she says. “Internships can help people who are not certain they want to return, but we are looking for people who are certain they want to return to a senior level role.

The programme, which is continuing to on-board during the coronavirus pandemic, brings an increasingly interesting, richly diverse group of people into the organisation with a different level of life experience. There is a different quality to them. Our teams are better as a result of having these people in them, asking different questions.”

In addition to sharing what UBS does around returners more widely through roundtables and other events, Carolanne is also a passionate advocate generally for returners and has done many media interviews about them as well as hosting a employer roundtable on returners.

Ideally, she says, she would love every large UK company to have a returner programme in one way or another. “There are literally tens of thousands of people who would love to come back to a corporate job who are not getting through the recruitment process and it is important to share best practice,” she says.

That applies to a whole range of other policies on everything from maternity coaching to gender identity issues. UBS has recently published a line manager’s guide to working with transgender colleagues and is working with Aviva about the support it might offer to people in its UK office going through gender identity transitions up to the point of surgery.

Role model

Carolanne has also long been a champion of flexible working and knows first hand why this is important. As a mum of four she says parents and employers have to adapt to the demands of the different stages of parenting. Carolanne, for instance, has not always worked full time. She had two years when she worked four days a week and a period of six months when she did three days a week.

More recently, with her youngest being 15, she says informal flexibility is important, but she is very organised about it.

At the start of the year she had already booked in her working from home days for the whole of 2020 and had been role modelling positive flexible working through promoting UBS’ Investment Banking “Take 2” initiative that encourages people to take time for themselves and their family, be more mindful, avoid working late hours and over weekends.

In her very senior role, she has been fortunate to have a nanny for the last 10 years who has provided a good level of stability at home and has enabled her to do what she needs to do at work. She also shares all childcare duties with her husband who works locally. That partnership is critical, she says, as is being super-organised and being able to prioritise.

Returning to UBS’ work on parental leave, she says it is vital that dads do their share. “It cannot all be on mums. That is holding women back,” says Carolanne. She notes that UBS’ work on SPL shows dads return from the leave with a different perspective which will stay with them as they progress through the ranks. She adds: “They understand the pressures and they never think of working mums in the same way. It normalises the stresses of parenting.”

*The full details of the’s Top Employer Awards are published in the Best Practice Report 2020. To download a copy, click here.


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