Here at Yoti, we have some pretty inspiring role models – not just right up at the top, but all throughout the company. Last Thursday, two such women put on an insightful and inspiring session on women in leadership, absolutely leading by example.
In a very relaxed round table, we learnt from the personal experiences and insights of our Head of Policy Julie Dawson, our Privacy Officer Emma Butler, and our Chief Marketing Officer Leanne Marshall. We want to thank them for their unabashed honesty and pearls of wisdom that they shared, and for being a constant source of inspiration for us.
For starters, it was extremely refreshing to hear from the outset that none of them set out knowing what they wanted to do with their lives. That sounds like a dramatic statement but is often something we hear ourselves saying when we feel lost and are so frequently asked in interviews, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”.
Our speakers have dabbled in loads of different projects and roles along the way. Both Emma and Julie left university with a languages degree and spent time teaching English abroad, lying on the beach in California or climbing volcanoes in Chile while they worked things out.
So once we got past the fact that no one is born with their destiny written in the stars, we got to the nitty gritty. Here are some of the key takeaways that we came away with.
There are lots of different ways to demonstrate leadership, and you don’t always have to be specifically leading a team to do it. It is as much about taking the initiative or inspiring other people to act as it is marching troops to the battlefield.
As well as being a leader of people, Emma spoke about how you could also be a leader in your field of expertise or a thought leader. Reflecting on what kind of leader you want to be and then taking note of how people you admire do this is a great way of stitching together your own quilt of leadership qualities and skills.
Emma, Julie and Leanne all spoke of different role models that encouraged them to take the next step on their journeys. Whether this is a work colleague, a partner, a friend or someone you have just met, we all need support and advice at times. And why not learn from someone with more years of experience and wisdom under their belt?
None of us feel like we are smashing it all of the time, no matter how great we are. Women can often be less confident than men and many of us second guess our abilities, which can paralyse us in the face of taking action. Strong opposition from others can sometimes be a catalyst for thoughts of self-doubt to creep in but don’t forget, you are in that role for a reason, be confident in yourself.
Despite the fact that women account for over half of the people on this planet, they are hugely underrepresented in higher positions in the workplace, along with other non-privileged groups that stray from the dominant, white male demographic. We must strive to champion under-represented groups and visibilise voices that don’t ring so loud in today’s society.
A good work-life balance doesn’t fall into place overnight and all of our speakers said that it became more important to them later on in their careers. Women typically have care-taking responsibilities and having a family often changes the focus and your needs.
The message was not to settle for an arrangement that doesn’t work for you. This means standing strong on what you need to maintain your version of a work-life balance, which for the speakers meant more flexible working hours.
We will all come across a whole host of different people, not just at work but in our private lives too. And the likelihood is that they will see things differently to us which can sometimes be challenging to work with. Rather than trying to change someone, a much more productive use of our time is changing how we react to them.
We see the world from our own point of view and often forget that people have different experiences to our own. Women can often struggle to be seen as assertive, and many feel like they have to change their behaviour as a consequence. By listening to the experiences of people from different genders, ethnicities and backgrounds, we can all strive to create a more open and inclusive environment.
We had some brilliant feedback from the evening and we hope you find these insights just as valuable as we have. We hope to host many more events on these topics so watch this space for more wisdom and discussion.