International Women’s Day 2020 – A close-up on our women-led business
International Women’s Day means many things to many people and for us, it’s a chance to give the recognition to our mostly female leadership team. Here at Hireserve, we pride ourselves on our credentials in equality with both a male and female managing director and a leadership team compromised of mostly women. So, who are they, and what advice would they give to future women business leaders? #IWD2020
Melanie Cantle, Head of Finance
Mel is a chartered accountant who has been looking after the Hireserve books now for over 10 years! She has seen her role grow from providing accountancy services for just one day a week to having full responsibility for the finances of the business, throughout many periods of growth.
Archana Mahabaleshwarkar, Technical Services Manager
Archana is responsible for leading the Technical Services team, working on both implementation projects and customer care. Archana joined Hireserve 6 years ago, joining as an Implementation and Services Consultant and progressing into management roles with ever increasing responsibilities.
Beverly Usher, Head of People
Bev, along with Mel, is another member of the 10-year club. Starting out at Hireserve with only a very part time role, Bev’s remit has grown as the company has expanded. Now responsible for the entire HR function (along with other related responsibilities), Bev keeps us all well informed, compliant and in line
Emma Johnson, Head of Customer Success
Starting her career at Hireserve in Marketing, Emma’s remit evolved to include the Customer Service function and the Technical Services Team, along with maintaining leadership of the Marketing Team. Emma is another long term member of the Hireserve team, starting out with just a few hours per week to now acquiring responsibilities the way the rest of us collect stamps, handbags or tea towels*.
*insert your chosen collection as applicable
We asked each what advice they would give to the women leaders of tomorrow:
Melanie: Go for it! There is absolutely no reason why women can’t be leaders in any field. I think I have been lucky, despite often working in a male-dominated field. I have never felt that my gender has held me back.
Archana: I think there are lot of opportunities and scope for women to be leaders of tomorrow. The key is to find the passion and persevere it. From personal experience, I would advise to push yourself to learn as much you possibly can. Passion and perfection in work has helped me enhance and grow in my career.
Bev: Work hard, love and know your topic, communicate well, be true to yourself and others, and deliver what you say you are going to deliver. Don’t limit yourself.
Emma: Take risks, sometimes we hold back because something is out of our comfort zone but put yourself forward, challenge yourself as it will expose you to different areas of the business and develop your skill set. Seek sponsorship and support from a senior member of the business, be open about your career goals. They could be your biggest advocate and champion as you seek opportunities to progress on the path to leadership. Finally, and most importantly, believe in yourself.
On their greatest challenges:
Melanie: It can be more difficult to manage your career once you are a parent, which is why it is so important that both your expectations and those of your employer are properly managed.
Archana: The challenge has always been striking the balance between the work and personal/family fronts. I did take a break from work to spend time with the children and due our frequent relocation had to look for new opportunities.
Bev: The only work environment that I have found to be a challenge was one rife with gender stereotyping. Often female colleagues would contribute to a problem solving activity, only to have their contribution ignored whilst a male counterpart would reiterate what the woman had earlier said in the meeting, they would be acknowledged and be offered congratulations from the senior members of the meeting. This was a highly frustrating trait of the organisation, what was most challenging was your male colleagues being happy to take the credit for your work.
Initially most of my peers dug in hard and over delivered in their roles compared to their male counterparts. Many overcame the challenges and were accepted for their professionalism and fantastic contributions, but they had to work harder, those that didn’t wish to challenge the culture moved on to more progressive organisations.
Emma: For me, the discrimination women face as the bearers of children has been the biggest challenge. Whether it’s questions about whether you’ll be having them and when, to returning to work after a career break – it is still such a difficult area to navigate successfully.
And what they think the future holds for women in business:
Melanie: I like to think there are fewer stereotypes now and what were once considered highly unusual choices (e.g. female delivery drivers, or male nurses) are becoming more “normal”. I hope in future gender will become an irrelevance, both in terms of reporting lines and in terms of duties performed.
Archana: I think from the time I started a career there has been huge technological shift. Having graduated in a Computer Science, I have always been in an IT career and with the advancements in technology the work culture has changed. Working from home, workplace flexibility has helped striking the important work/life balance. Many more organisations now support and encourage women to follow their career aspirations which leads to a bright future.
Bev: The equalising of career choices across genders that has been taking place over the past couple of decades is feeding through to the world of work and most professions are now open to all genders in all roles – providing the holders has the skills, knowledge and ability. The culture has been driven by the altered mindsets nurtured within education establishments – schools, colleges and universities. I believe most employers are choosing workers based on their qualifications, experience and suitability for a role rather than on a person’s gender – just how it should be!
To continue improvements for women in business, we need to change our collective mindset so each gender doesn’t fall into the subliminal expectations of genders roles. For example, where women are responsible for the upkeep of a home whilst working full time, or the women in the office responsible for the cleanliness. We as mothers need nurture our children to gender neutral responsibilities and expectations.
Emma: There has definitely been progress and women’s career prospects have improved but there is still a significant gender pay gap and a lack of women in senior positions across most businesses. Equality and inclusivity are big topics of conversation today and I am confident we will see an increase in the number of senior female leaders and girls studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) in the coming years. Flexibility in the workplace has definitely moved forward since I had my children, many organisations do now recognise the need to have more flexible working patterns to enable parents and care givers to meet the demands of work and home life.
Thank you to our four female Hireserve leaders for sharing their experience and advice. The recurrent themes throughout the experiences are that of the need for determination on their part and flexibility on the behalf of their employer. Flexible working is by no means something that only benefits women – it can be just as beneficial to men – however, does play a significant role in the ability of a primary carer to take a job in the long term. It is also clear that while all four are optimistic about the future of women in business, there is still work to be done in order to maintain a workplace that treats men and women equally.