Aspire to Greatness - Women Mean Business
In the last few months, more and more have been speaking and supporting the ongoing initiative of the UK Government to achieve 25% of company directors to be women by 2015. Lord Davies, who undertook the review and is now heading the initiative, is keen to ensure that there is a combination of both males and females on the board of the biggest companies in the UK by the end of 2014. The latest reports show that 61 FTSE 100 companies have yet to meet Lord Davies’ target.
My previous article, Gender Balance – Women Mean Business, was on the topic of the frequently discussed glass ceiling that many women need to break through to be able to proceed to the top of the career ladder. It is becoming more and more widely understood that employing an equal amount of women will bring strength and a greater skill base to business. It is imperative that women also try to establish where they can improve to become better board members, and in fact, become board members in the first place.
The above was the hot topic of the most recent ‘Women Mean Business’ event organised by Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce. Their main speaker, Chris Dunridge, presented her own successful career and highlighted the benefits of having values that are both personal and corporate in terms of furthering a career as a woman.
Chris started her career when she joined BHS on a graduate scheme. Chris stated that she believes that retail is the best business to learn, as it gives you all round experience in a pressurised environment. Luckily, she followed top performers of the business and very quickly became a manager of their biggest store on Oxford Street. Seeking a new challenge, Chris decided to join Ocean Group at one of their cargo businesses based in Heathrow Airport. Using all the skills she gained in BHS she quickly stepped up to another role where she concentrated on improving customer service, employee engagement, morale and motivation.
Her efforts were quickly noticed and saw Chris moving within the group to various roles. After having a break for family commitments, Chris set up her own company, The People Practice. In four years she grew the company from one employee to ten until she received the offer to work at TAQA. Now, after five years working with TAQA where she saw a growth of the company to 500 staff and 2500 contractors, she has decided once again to operate her own business, The People Practice.
During her time in TAQA, Chris utilised her skills in a variety of ways. She assessed the engagement of employees in order to increase production by 50%, and also how to ensure that they live by the TAQA culture, ‘How to behave when nobody is looking.’ Chris learned a lot during her time in TAQA, particularly in terms of cultural differences in the Middle East in terms of gender and business. The mainstay of Chris’ speech was that when it comes to ensuring a productive and respectful atmosphere for all genders, companies should set values and stick to them. Communication between all sexes needs to be clear in order to deliver the business priorities and share the same values. Employees need to live and breathe the same corporate and personal values to be an integral part of the business - values like loyalty, pragmatism, fairness and positive energy.
Rhea Hussey from Fifth Ring shared a very similar view on values and positive energy. Throughout her successful career Rhea had some horror stories, some simply due to being a woman. She explained her belief in the importance of removing yourself from a difficult situation at work, and returning to your core values in order to solve the situation. For her, these are simple yet powerful; daring to be different, considering her actions, aspiring to greatness and attempting to inspire others.
Both Chris and Rhea spoke of women's perceptions and mind set in terms of the influences on how far someone can go in their career. Women not only need to be robust and resilient, not taking no for an answer, but they along with all employees need to be supportive of each other, positive and keen to develop the next generation of leaders. This can only occur when everyone is self-aware and willing to create and lead change.
Do you have any thoughts on how women can lead change in their companies? Let us know in the comments below.