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18 January, 2023

#30 Portret van een vrouw in de financiële sector: Isolde Antonsen

“If you love your work, it will love you back”

This is a quote that perfectly sums up how I look at my career at KBC: for 28 years, I have started each day with a lot of enthusiasm and passion. This mindset is not only contagious but has undoubtedly ensured that I have been given many great opportunities.

However,  in all transparency, I wasn’t passionate from the start: when I graduated, it was not a great time to find a job. 70 spontaneous letters of application and about 3 interviews later, KBC gave me the chance to start.  At a bank? The last thing I wanted to apply for  ... boring, no doubt ... jeans, sweater and sneakers traded in for a dress suit and pumps ... and I started with the motto 'At least I have a job and I’ll look for something else soon'.

But honestly, I never really felt the need to look forward to anything else.

Pretty soon I felt the positive vibe within KBC and ‘team blue’. I discovered many opportunities and was convinced that finance = fun. Moreover, I felt that I fitted in the strong and clear company culture. And last but not least, I noticed that the dress suit was unnecessary.

To my younger self, I would particularly like to say that I am proud of the fact that I started completely out of my comfort zone at the age of 23. “Yes, you did, girl !”

As for the later years, I am especially grateful to my managers for believing in me and giving me the right opportunities. Sometimes they stopped me when I wanted to take on another challenge within KBC, which didn’t always feel right. But patience pays off. I kept my enthusiasm and somehow I got presented great opportunities which turned out perfectly. The empowering culture was very important to me because I had to take a leap in the dark and let go of my modesty. (“I don’t know if I will be able to do this kind of job”).

And what I certainly want to pass along to young women at the start of their career, is first of all : be patient!  You have a lot of years to go in your career, so make sure you stay in each role for a sufficient number of years. Don't give up and start job hopping too soon. Become good at what you do. Moreover, I would like to add that there are a lot of opportunities at KBC or in finance if you will, so be open to every opportunity and don't think too quickly that the grass is greener at your competitors. But above all: believe in yourself. Just because your male colleague is more confident doesn't mean he is better at a particular job. Just stand there and do your job in your own authentic way with a female touch.

Finally : As for myself,  I've just started as a Private Banking Branch Manager of a completely new branch with a completely new team, which gives me a lot of energy. In our team there is a perfect balance : 50% men, 50% women.

However, when I sit at the biweekly office director meetings as the only woman among 12 men, I realize that there is still a way to go regarding ‘gender equality in finance’....


Interviewed by Ilse De Muyer