International Women’s Day is devoted to the promotion of and the discussion around gender parity. Whilst I hold the personal view that I think it’s a shame that the necessity for this day still exists today, the reality is that it’s relevance and importance cannot be overestimated enough; and whilst the necessity for the day is routed in the disparity between the genders; it is also a day to celebrate women’s achievements, to raise awareness around bias (both conscious and unconscious) and to take action at both an individual and corporate level around this subject of equality.
I reflected hard on my thoughts towards this day. I reflected first on the two most influential women in my life growing up, my mother and grandmother; both of whom raised me. My mother who chose to parent full time and my grandmother who raised three children by herself, as a widow, whilst holding down two jobs in different counties back in the UK. There is no doubt that their influence I feel each day, and I’m grateful for that.
I spent some time reflecting on the industry in which I work, an industry that already has a degree of bias and stereotyping attached to it in terms of what people think it is, or what it takes to succeed in it.
I think about the amazing women that I have worked with over my 20+ years in recruitment who have materially shaped and impacted how I approach my job, my career outlook, my management style, and how I carry myself each day. I would like to take this opportunity to shine a spotlight on them; both past and present and take the time to say thank you.
I am and will always be grateful to my first manager who instilled in me the work ethic and approach to succeed in recruitment. However, it was my second Manager; Natasha Baylin, who taught me about “others first” management and who was one of my sources of inspiration to take what was then a “job” and turn it in to a “career”.
At Robert Walters I was able to work alongside some of the most accomplished practitioners in our industry; people like Kerry Saes, Natasha Edwards and Erica Lindberg who were individually successful as recruiters, but who also engendered such high levels of loyalty and allegiance as leaders; reflective truly of their abilities to bring out the best in people.
At Charterhouse, 80% of our most senior leadership team are women. Kerry Saes, Michelle Rubinstein, Sophie Hewitson, and Renata Bradnock. All are truly remarkable professionally and I believe our business is infinitely stronger for their presence in it and their contribution to it. They bring obvious technical competence, but they share a nuanced ability to bring out the best in those they are responsible for; they have a knack for managing authentically. All 4 of my colleagues can do this and be committed parents.
I think about Katy Bennett, who is both our Office Manager and my EA as well as being a mother. I think about how without her, this business would grind to a halt with all that she does day to day; and she does it whilst navigating the first year of parenting that can be so exhausting to the uninitiated.
As I work through our business there is instance after instance of exceptional women whose contribution is measured beyond dollars but rather qualitatively in how they help us make Charterhouse, Charterhouse. Directors like Naomi Hanley, who plays an instrumental role as part of the leadership team in our Sydney business, through to our Managers; Charlie Collin, Liz Ruddick, Liza Abramova and Sally Walters, who through their hard work each day make a profound and lasting impact.
Whilst the emphasis of my focus here is around Women in Leadership; I want to also shine a spotlight on those women who are defining and successfully building their own careers here; some of whom may aspire to manage as part of their development. Our female Senior Principal Consultants are some of our strongest advocates, whose impact is equal to that of their management peers. Pagen Quinn, Katie Rushworth and Jess Halliwell are fantastic role models to not just the women in our business who are still carving out their career, but equally the men.
To pause and reflect on the contributions and impact that each of these women has made was the easiest thing that I have done in my time as a CEO. It does not require reflection, it’s evident for everybody to see; and whilst I have singled out people by name in this piece; I can’t stress enough that these sentiments of impact, contribution, worth and capability easily applies to ANY of the women we have working for us and I’m delighted to call them colleagues and work alongside them each and every day. Before I sign off, I wanted to conclude with a statistic that literally stopped me in my tracks.
According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report for 2020, it is estimated that true gender parity will not be attained for 99.5 years; or put differently; greater than our lifetimes. Whilst I do not dispute this fact; I am struggling to reconcile that it will take 100 times as long to achieve gender parity than it took to produce a vaccine for a virus that has ravaged communities and countries these past 12 months.
I #choosetochallenge this statement. Within the context of what I have written around female leadership and female role models, I cannot accept that there is not more we can do to encourage more women into these roles. I accept that there needs to be systemic change in workplace cultures and that mindsets need to change, and policies need to follow. I recognise that I have this privileged opportunity to help influence this because, as a CEO, I have the ability, to achieve this here at Charterhouse; and as a Recruiter, I can work with, influence and counsel our clients to help them achieve this also.
In essence, I have the agency to act, more than I have, without it being about what I have not - and that’s liberating.