‘Woman in business’ and Our Joint Managing Director, Karen Ovenden, recently shared her thoughts on what advice she would give to the women business leaders of tomorrow in a piece originally published on LinkedIn.

As a woman in business for over 30 years, I’ve seen a lot of change. Going from office environments where the norm tended to be ‘women in business’ filling mainly secretarial or administrative roles, to a workforce that is now more diverse with an expectation of both equal opportunities and equal pay. The landscape has changed – that change must continue though. We are much wiser to the boardroom restrictions and antics that have suppressed women but there is clearly still work to be done.

Speak up

The boardroom can be an intimidating place to be. The statistics show that there are more men named Steve in the FTSE 100 CEO list than there are women. Too often we are the exception in the boardroom and under-represented in senior roles. But we’re there for a reason and should let our voices be heard and feel confident to speak out and not hide in a corner – we need to be very present.   We’ve earned our place and should be seen and listened to and don’t let anyone tell you any differently.  Our voices are as relevant as any.

Don’t settle for a bad workplace culture

There can be huge cultural differences from workplace to workplace and unfortunately, we still hear horrible examples of discrimination due to poor office culture and attitudes, for example the experience of Brent Central MP Dawn Butler being told ‘these lifts aren’t for cleaners’ while using a members-only lift.  It is so important to recognise and report discrimination, disrespect or assumption.  The workplace has certainly improved since I entered it in 1983 but there is still work to be done and we simply must continue to call out bad behaviours to move forward.

Support each other

For far too long we’ve seen the success of the typical ‘Old Boys Club’.   Having a credible support network throughout your career is so important. Build a network of people to rely on – to advise, support and mentor each other. This should be open for new people to join and encouragement and guidance offered.  Never underestimate the impact that your support and experience can mean to someone that has no existing connections in their chosen field.

Don’t be held back

Whether it’s fear, personal circumstances or a lack of self-belief. Studies show that women look at a job and only apply if they meet all the criteria, whereas men usually apply after meeting about 60%. Imposter syndrome can affect everyone, and it is important that we all have confidence in ourselves and ignore the voice that tells us we aren’t good enough to take a seat at the table – you are better than “good enough” so take your seat and own it.

If in doubt, ask

No one wants to seem like they’re not keeping up, and women are often less forthcoming with questions than men. You might try and save face by guessing what the answer to your question might be and just hoping for the best. But it’s so important not to assume that your question is not of value. If you’re struggling to understand something, there is every chance you are not at fault and it is not your inadequacy but that the topic itself has not been adequately explained to you.

These are my thoughts and pockets of advice for future women business leaders. What are yours? I’d be keen to hear of any experiences or bits of advice you’d give to the leading women of tomorrow.

Thanks to Karen for this thought provoking piece! We hope it has given some inspiration to future women business leaders.

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About the author

Tristan Potter

From recruitment into central government, to financial services and the charitable sector, Leah has worked across many industries in her wide ranging career! Now working as Hireserve's Senior Marketing Executive, Leah covers all things marketing - from maintaining our social media channels to managing logistics for events across the country.