International Women’s Day was first marked over 100 years ago. Why do you think the day is still relevant?
There’s a lot of talk about progress when we talk about women and work. If you look at the definition of progress it is ‘forward or onward movement towards a destination’ – we’ve not nearly reached the destination yet! According to the World Economic Forum it will still take another 100 years before global gender equality between men and women disappears – that’s in the workplace, education system, politics and in health. So we need change rather than progress and that hasn’t happened. That’s why we still need IWD, because the original aim – to achieve full gender equality for women in the world – hasn’t been realised.
Which women have inspired you professionally?
I’ve been extremely lucky to have a number of female leaders – both in the marketing world and outside – to inspire and guide me. You can learn a huge amount from seeing how successful senior women operate and present themselves. I’ve also really benefited from having female mentors and sponsors. Each one plays a different role in your career, but are instrumental in helping you build your presence, understand how you’re being perceived, giving you advice, and providing opportunities. I’ve also built a strong network of women friends and colleagues through the years who act as a sounding board, shoulder to cry on and a loving critic!
What main change would you like to see for young girls in the next generation?
A world where women get equal access to justice, education and opportunity. I worry when looking at my children that social media is creating increased isolation, as well as promoting stereotypes of men as aggressors, and objectified women. I also worry about the rise of AI – the huge volumes of data it gathers means it can, inadvertently, reinforce gender bias, through stereotyped targeted ads, or image searches. Plus the current lack of diversity in programmers and data scientists leads to in-build bias that will reinforce the gender divide, rather than help it. Change for the next generation happens in our actions and decisions today – which is why I believe that IWD and all it stands for is so important.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would that be?
That you own your own story. I think that one of our many strengths as women is thinking through all the outcomes of every decision we may or may not make, but I also think that it limits us, making us more risk adverse. As I get older, I realise that taking risks can be incorporated into an interesting textured story about your career and shouldn’t hold you back.
One piece of advice that I was given – and I’m glad I took – was to plan your career once you meet the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. When I met the man I am now married to, I started to really actively plan my career, as I knew I would want to have children if I could. I looked for opportunities to take bigger jobs, get promoted faster, and I moved around more quickly to achieve that. This meant that, at the point that I had my first child, I was leaving at a level that I knew, if my career stagnated for a few years, I wouldn’t feel like I’d fallen behind my peers. I was also very open with how I wanted to work once I’d had children, changing from a UK to a global role to facilitate a more flexible work-life balance.
Finally, tell us a bit about your new role here at Capita.
I’m so excited to have joined Capita at such a pivotal moment. It’s a business with bold ambitions, and a passionate commitment to delivering better outcomes. I have an excellent team with a mandate to build a powerful brand, drive growth for the business and create a place where talented people want to grow their careers. In my role in Accenture, I was marketing technology, transformation and operations, then in my role in Thomson Reuters I led a marketing transformation – so, in some ways, this job feels like the perfect union of my previous two roles.