To mark International Women’s Day today, we meet successful, inspirational women from across the Channel Islands, to get to know them and to help celebrate their achievements.
Have you ever been in a situation where you were made to think that ‘women’ and ‘power’ were two incompatible concepts?
Yes, but not for a long time. I still recall a situation back in circa 2000 when I was invited to a senior meeting and one chap said: “I hope she isn’t just a skirt without a mouth”. That was then. I had and still have a mouth! But speaking up isn’t easy for everyone and for women in particular we need to push ourselves slightly outside our comfort zone if we want to be heard and taken seriously. I did this then and will continue to do this.
It’s not about pushing women’s rights over and above men’s, it’s just about being equal with our male peers.
Which powerful woman do you admire the most?
Jacinda Ardern, most recent female New Zealand Prime Minister. Why? There is a very senior businessman who I have worked with and continue to follow and admire. His philosophy is ‘do it with them not to them’.
I’ve not worked with Jacinda, but from what I have seen of how she conducted her leadership, she demonstrated a similar mind set despite the challenges and obstacles politics attract. She managed New Zealand through one of its most difficult periods, the pandemic, allowing her people to come out of it relatively unscathed. Their response has been seen as one of the world’s most successful strategies.
More recently, her resignation might not seem like something to admire, but she stepped up when she felt that she could add value as a leader, and stepped back when she felt she had nothing further to give. That to me is real leadership over personal ambition.
Do you consider yourself to be a powerful woman?
No. But I’m happy to speak up for what I believe and take all steps I can to drive that forward and talk positively about my experiences.
Are women in leadership important?
Definitely and its clear their presence is increasing. They are plentiful across all walks of life, business, charity etc. Fact: diversity of thought drives creativity, productivity, and therefore profit and with today’s pressure on scarce and expensive talent there is a business imperative to get behind this. The number of female CEOs for FTSE 500s is now more than 10%; in 2000 that was 0.4%. Still a long way to go, but at least it is going in the right direction.
It is a constant challenge to keep pushing home the message that women are equal, that they bring different skills and perspectives to situations, and are just as capable at leading a business as a man.
Having said that, clearly the world is not uniform and there are many countries in the world where women’s rights (along with other minority groups) are still being eroded. It is therefore a constant challenge to keep pushing home the message that women are equal, that they bring different skills and perspectives to situations, and are just as capable at leading a business as a man.
Strong role models are critical in giving those who are still fighting for their rights, the strength to keep going.
What are the main challenges for female leaders?
Being authentic, seen and heard in what was a man’s world. What does annoy me is when strong women are seen as either being ball-breakers or women’s libbers, and not just as strong leaders.
Let’s ditch the outdated views and accept that while women are undoubtedly less aggressive than men (yes! the prison population is evidence of that because it’s a physiological fact), they can still be tough when they need to be without it detracting from who they are.
What would you say are your greatest strengths?
I’m driven, focussed, and have a desire to challenge the status quo.
Do you believe that men and women bring different strengths to your organisation?
Absolutely. They bring different thoughts, perspectives, and skills which is why diversity is so important and why it strengthens a team. Women are roughly 50% of the population, as are men, (gender neutral people obviously making up the rest) it is important that any business represents and speaks to all elements of the society it serves.
Labels and barriers are still out there, and we will have only truly won the battle of inclusivity when psychologically we see a successful person, not label them by their gender. This isn’t about employing women over men, or promoting women over men. It is about giving the best candidate the role – whatever their gender.
Do you feel now it is easier for women to get into leadership roles than when you started out in your career?
Definitely and in Jersey there are lots of successful women in senior roles, where there were only men until not that long ago. We have had two female leaders of the IoD in succession, the prior leader of the Chamber of Commerce was female, and we have our first ever female Chief Minister who has brought in a gender balanced Council of Ministers.
There has been a huge amount of progress in the last decade. What is important is that our leaders – whether male, female, or gender neutral, are judged on their performance and leadership – not on their gender label.
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