Today, 8 March 2017, is International Women’s Day.
To celebrate and highlight the importance of this globally recognised day, I wanted to take the opportunity to share with you some of my story as well as some thoughts (or I should probably say, things I wish I’d known earlier).
My working story started with my first role after university when I had a graduate job with a FTSE 250 energy company. This role provided me with the opportunity to undertake all aspects of Personnel & Training (as they were called at the time) as well as Process Improvement. Towards the end of my time there, I took the opportunity to take a six-month secondment in London – keeping my house back in the Midlands and travelling back at weekends to my partner (now husband).
Part of my role with the energy company was to support the management team with Trade Union negotiations to agree the process for splitting the company up into separate businesses. As my secondment ended, I took the opportunity to move onto pastures new and into a smaller, very commercial, fast moving organisation as their Personnel Manager. At this point, from ‘small fish in a big sea’ to a ‘big fish in a small sea’, I went through a crisis of confidence (quietly and with no-one else being aware) as I realised what truly having responsibility and working in a very commercial environment really meant.
However, I stuck with it and grew enormously both in my emotional resilience and my skills as a result of the experience, all of which prepared me for moving on to my role with Ricoh UK where I have now been for the last 20 years. During my time here, I have been able develop my career whilst starting and raising my family.
I started my career at Ricoh as Personnel Manager and was promoted to Associate HR Director prior to taking up my current role as a Board Director – People & CR.
For the last 18 years of my career I have worked part-time and flexibly to accommodate my family commitments. I have three (gorgeous) children and manage to carefully balance my role as a mum with my career. I will be the first to admit that it isn’t always easy although it is most definitely always, always worth it. I have had three different CEO’s throughout my career with Ricoh and each one has been superb in their support for me.
In no order of importance, here are just some of my thoughts (or things I wish I’d known):
- Seek out mentors – actively seek out people whose advice you trust and/or from whom you can learn and don’t be afraid to ask them to help you. I guarantee they will love that you asked them.
- Identify and make good use of your sponsors – they are the ones who act as your advocate and will help you get your voice heard. I have had some great ones although I didn’t realise it at the time.
- Actively seek feedback and believe what people say when it’s good. I recall my HR Director at a previous company told me – to my horror at the time – that I would be a great HR Director myself. I didn’t believe her and look at me now!
- Be kind to yourself and notice (& celebrate) the things you do well – be aware that females are typically more sensitive (than males) to negative feedback and will need typically six pieces of positive feedback to counteract one piece of negative feedback.
- Give back at least as much as you take – flexibility works both ways and should be a win-win for both you and the company.
- Collaborate and build your network – you will not have all the answers and will never be expected to have them either. The world does still operate on ‘who you know, not what you know’ (it took me a long time to realise this!).
- Build a great team – let go of the thought that you need to be the expert; develop those around you and be constantly amazed by how brilliant they are. Remember, the sign of a great leader is someone who develops others to be great leaders.
- Ask questions – be inquisitive and have a growth mindset – there are no limits to what you can achieve.
- Always seek to do your best – it may surprise some of you to know that I have never, ever considered myself to be career-oriented or a ‘career woman’; however, I have always, always aimed to do a (very) good job. If you are going to do something, do it well!
- Push yourself to move outside your comfort zone – just have a go, leap at opportunities, take a chance. If you feel ‘comfortably excited’ (butterflies in the tummy) then you are pushing at your comfort zone and learning and growing.
The theme for the 2017 International Women’s Day 2017 is #BeBoldForChange, and calls on everyone to step up and take ground breaking action to help drive gender equality. For me, I commit to championing gender diversity both within Ricoh UK (and externally) and opening up opportunities to female talent within Ricoh UK, whether that be mentoring opportunities, or access to learning opportunities to ensure female employees have access to opportunities based on merit.
I would ask that you join me in Being Bold for Change and encourage females within work to achieve their full potential.