07 Mar 2019
By Nicola Denegri, Senior Consultant and Executive Coach, Kissing With Confidence
Friday 8 March 2019 marks International Women’s Day, and this year’s theme is #BalanceforBetter. This theme runs throughout the year, and its aim is to drive a better gender balance in all areas: in government; in media; in the boardroom; in employment….the list goes on. Please do visit their excellent website www.internationalwomensday.com for more information.
There is no doubt: women in business, especially at senior level, are good for business.
All too often, the numbers of women outnumber men at graduate level within the professions, yet when it comes to the C-suite they have fallen off a cliff. Why?
Most often, women say there’s a lack of suitable role models for them (they don’t want to outman the men); they aren’t sure their organisations are committed to women’s advancement; they are struggling to be both primary breadwinner and primary caregiver – and so they voluntarily step back in order to create more balance for themselves in the short term, ultimately losing out in the long term (as does their employer).
So the #BalanceforBetter campaign is a brilliant way of highlighting that it shouldn’t be a woman’s sole responsibility for making her working environment more practically suited to helping her achieve that balance – and helping the business profit along the way – it should be everyone’s. After all, we know that we spend more of our lives than previous generations working, so making sure that we can work at home in the evenings, for example, after doing family stuff, works to everyone’s benefit. Presenteeism in the office is not the answer.
So that’s a practical point. On a cultural one, I was working with a group of very talented law firm partners the other week, men and women. The subject of “imposter syndrome” came up – to vigorous agreement from them all that they suffer from it - which I thought was a fantastic testament to their particular culture, as people are often reluctant to admit to suffering from it. And of course, being open about this, and understanding that there are ways to manage it, leads to all sorts of better conversations, mutual support and a greater representation of senior women (as is the case here).
This perception of “lack” is something we explore more deeply during one to one coaching sessions, a great way of developing people rapidly, with a focus on them and their own development needs. Every single senior person I’ve ever worked with, bar one, has admitted to having a number of gremlins, or self-limiting voices, that have taken up space, time, effort and energy to live alongside. Learning to recognise and manage them is a way of becoming even more successful and diverting that space, time, effort and energy elsewhere and more productively.
My view is that women are great at recognising this, and need men to be honest too about their own gremlins, in order to become better together, stronger together. And the bottom line is that this is good for business.
One of my wonderful former coaching clients is Susana Gozalo, Director of Operations – Rail and Geotechnical – Europe, at Jacobs. They are an extremely impressive organisation, not least in their approach to developing their people. We asked Susana about her coaching and how it has helped her – and from there, how she’s helping others as a leader:
“My executive coaching sessions have allowed me to understand me and the way I work, behave and present myself to others.
The key takeaway I have learned is that I am the way I am, but I have tools within me to manage the way I present myself or the way I deal with my day-to-day tasks and my relationships with others, both at work and outside, in order to develop from technical management into leadership.
Through my executive coaching sessions, I developed the skills to see the bigger picture and unleash my full potential. I am still the way I have always been, that has not changed and I am very proud of me, but I am now a much more confident leader. This experience has enriched me as a professional and allowed me to believe in myself to the extent that I presented my credentials, experience and capabilities to the European Women in Construction and Engineering Awards, where I won in the Best Woman in Rail category in 2018.”
Isn’t that wonderful? I found Susana to be an inspiration and loved working with her, as I imagine her colleagues and clients do, too.
So as we approach International Women’s Day, I’d encourage you – as I will be, too – to look around and consider how you can support women, your business and yourself (yes, even if you’re a man) to support this wonderful initiative, because everyone wins.