Maggie Berry is the Executive Director for Europe of WEConnect International. WEConnect exists to encourage and support global supplier diversity for women-owned businesses, helping women-owned businesses to connect with multi-national corporations, something that historically has not been quite so easy for women-owned businesses to do.
Previously Maggie was the Managing Director of womenintechnology.co.uk – an online job board, recruitment and networking forum for women working in the technology profession in the UK. She was involved from Women in Technology’s inception in the autumn of 2004, managed all aspects of the website and the networking activities Women in Technology organised and she continues to run the Women in Technology Network on an informal basis.
In March 2012 Maggie was honoured by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader and she is currently serving as a Global Agenda Council Member on Employment for the 2012-2014 term. In July 2011 she was listed as one of 15 UK-based TIAW (the International Alliance for Women) World of Difference Award winners and in July 2010 she was included in Management Today’s ’35 Under 35’ list. She is also a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists.
In this, the second of my Inspiring Women interviews, Maggie and I discuss:
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Amanda: Hello, and welcome to the Inspiring Women Interviews podcast with me, Amanda Alexander. If you haven’t joined us before, the interviews are with female leaders and female role models who are advocates helping all women to achieve success as leaders. Our aim with these interviews is to inspire you to lean in, step up, and really go for it. Today I am delighted to welcome Maggie Berry, the Executive Director for Europe of WEConnect International. WEConnect essentially exists to encourage and support global supplier diversity for women-owned businesses. It helps women-owned businesses to connect with multi-national corporations, something that historically has not been quite so easy for women-owned businesses to do.
I’m going to let Maggie just tell you a little bit more about WEConnect in a moment. Let me just tell you about Maggie. Maggie joined the organization in December 2012, and she has lead responsibility for the management, leadership, and development of WEConnect Europe. Her role is about developing corporate and public sector support, as well as growing and developing the database and network of registered and certified women business owners across the UK and Europe. Before she joined WEConnect, Maggie was managing Director of womenintechnology.co.uk, an online job board which was also a recruitment and networking forum for women working in technology professions. She was involved from Women in Technology’s inception in autumn of 2004, and she managed all aspects of the website and the networking activities for Women in Technology.
Maggie’s wonderful wow moments include being honored by the World Economic Forum as a young global leader. She is currently serving as a global agenda council member on employment for the World Economic Forum. Also, in July 2011, she was listed as one of the 15 UK-based International Alliance for Women World of Difference Award winners. Wow. That’s a mouthful. It’s very impressive but a mouthful. In July 2010, Maggie was included in Management Today’s 35 under 35 list. As if all that wasn’t enough, she’s also a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists. I think it’s fair to say that Maggie knows something about women in technology in particular. Welcome, Maggie. Thank you very much for being here today.
Maggie Berry: Thank you, Amanda.
Amanda: Can you just tell us a bit more about WEConnect and how you help to connect women-owned businesses?
Maggie Berry: Absolutely. WEConnect International, and the WE stands for Women’s Enterprise. We’re all about connecting women-owned businesses into the corporate supply chain. It’s an international organization. We’re actually headquartered out of Washington, DC. I’ve got colleagues all around the world in Canada, India, China, Latin America, Africa. I’m based in the UK and I look after our corporate members and our women-owned businesses here in Europe. It’s an international supplier diversity campaign. By that, we have a lot of focus here around workforce diversity, and to get companies hiring more women, keeping them, promoting them, getting them coming back after maternity leave, all that good stuff. WEConnect is actually looking at huge big corporations. Who do they buy from? What businesses are they buying from? Are they buying from women-owned businesses?
As a concept, supplier diversity is very embedded in the US market. They’ve got a lot of support in place for diverse-owned business, women, minority, LGBT, et cetera. The big corporations there are looking to roll their programs out globally. WEConnect International was set up a number of years ago to help those firms roll their supplier diversity programs out into other regions of the world. Europe was actually the pilot program about seven years ago. I’ve been working with the organization since about 2012, just over 2 and a half years. I work with big multi-nationals like IBM, Coca-Cola, Accenture, Ernst and Young, and our group of women-owned businesses. Very specifically, we work with majority-owned women’s businesses, businesses that are fifty-one percent or more owned by women. The model is that our corporate members tell us what they’re buying through their tenders or RFPs. Our job is to identify women-owned business who could be a potential match and who could participate in the tender process. It’s almost like corporate matchmaking in the supply chain. Hugely interesting. Hugely challenging. It keeps me very busy.
Amanda: One thing I wanted to say, Maggie, was I met Maggie at a WEConnect event where I was introduced as a guest there. It was an absolutely brilliant event down in London. As a result of that event, just from the networking … I don’t know if I told you this. I actually gained some business with a big corporate. There you go. QED. It works.
Maggie Berry: This model works. That’s fantastic. Yeah. We work through formal procurement channels where the corps are issuing a formal tender, but we also facilitate a lot of connections around the edges. Women-owned businesses come to our events and they get the option to meet the representative from our corporate members. All sorts of things happen. Sometimes it takes a while. We had our last conference probably about 9 months or so ago now. A number of our women-owned businesses are coming forward to me now saying, actually on the back of that I met so-and-so, we’ve done this. It’s kind of carried on. That’s now come to fruition in June [inaudible 00:06:16]. It can take a while. You don’t just knock on the door of a big corporate and start to work with them straightaway. It can take a while to build up relationships. It’s all in the name. It’s Women’s Enterprise and it’s Connect. So it’s WEConnect.
Amanda: Absolutely. Yeah. For everybody listening, as you know, I really like to connect personally and ask people’s journey and what works for them, et cetera. At this point, I just want to dive in, Maggie, and just ask you about the need for WEConnect. On your website it says a diverse supplier base is no longer an option, it is a business imperative and WEConnect is here to create that opportunity. For those who might not be au fait with the importance of diversity and who might think because there is always an argument about diversity, isn’t there, why do we need to have something that connects women owned businesses? What about men owned businesses? What about someone else owned businesses? How would you respond to that within the context of it being a business imperative?
Maggie Berry: Absolutely. I have those conversations fairly regularly. I think, for me, the driver is around this. In, let’s just take the UK, women make up about %20 of business owners in the UK. Twenty percent. We’re %50 of the working population so we’re already in the minority in terms of business ownership. Business ownership is directly linked to economic wealth and economic power. For us, what we’re looking at is how can we help put more women into a situation where they’ve got the opportunity to bid for more business and to grow their businesses and to grow their economic wealth. Globally WEConnect international is essentially a women’s economic empowerment company. I think here in the UK it is a very a new business concept.
The majority of the corporate organizations that we’re working with are US based multinationals who have very robust programs in the US supporting diverse owned businesses and they want to have these programs in all regions of the world where they’re working. It is a very new part of the diversity landscape. It is essentially supporting SMEs and underrepresented SMEs. When people say to me, “What about men?” … Well, business is very male and when you look at lists of successful business people, they’re often populated by men. I just read an article this morning as I was eating my breakfast on the BBC … I saw it on Facebook. It was about the top 17 people in advertising globally and 16 of them are white males earning the most money. One woman, no ethnic minorities. It’s things like that that you see time and again and that’s what spurs me on. I want to see more women succeeding and achieving. Through WEConnect, we’re looking at women entrepreneurs and female business owners. Through all the work I’ve done with Women in Technology and continue to do with Women in Technology, it’s around helping women succeed and achieve in the technology profession here in the UK.
There are lots of reasonings around working with SMEs generally. The diversity of thought that they bring, they’re more nimble, they can often move more quickly than some of the big suppliers. It just so happens that at WEConnect our focus is specifically on women owned SMEs.
Amanda: Excellent answer. Nobody could argue with that. I would say, anyway. Thanks Maggie. I want to ask you, I’ve given you this introduction and when I read your profile … and probably a lot people in there listening to your profile with your awards and plaudits will think, “Wow. Here is a high flying woman.” Do you consider yourself to be a high flying woman?
Maggie Berry: I don’t know. It’s not a phrase that I would use to describe myself but I do have very high expectations of what I want to achieve and anything that I want to do … I only want to do things if they’re going to be good. I have very high standards of myself. I’ve worked very hard around Women in Technology and that network. I work very hard around that. With WEConnect it’s the same. I’m pushing very hard all the time. Does that make it high flying? I don’t know. Am I passionate and committed? Absolutely. Have I enjoyed lots of different success in my career? Yes but it hasn’t just happened overnight and it hasn’t come without me doing anything. I’ve had to work quite hard. I also feel very content when I’ve proved to myself that I can do something, that I can deliver something, that I can deliver another great event. You mentioned that we first got connected at our WEConnect conference. I get to the end of the day when we’ve done a big event like that and I’m like, “That was good. I can feel the feedback in the room was positive and that’s great.”
Amanda: Yeah. I think that the reason I put you on the spot and asked you that question is because I think it’s interesting. I think very few women would actually say, “Oh yes. Of course I regard myself as a high flying woman.” I think the term is … I think any term to do with female success can often be loaded with a whole set of beliefs and attitudes that aren’t necessarily positive. I think it’s an interesting thing. I’m in a group on Facebook called … It’s a closed group of female entrepreneurs and it’s called High Performing Women. I know that a number of members have had quite an interesting reaction to that high performing women label and I wonder if we need to create a new label of women who are … I don’t know … purposeful women.
Maggie Berry: Yeah. Quite possibly. I think everybody’s different and one of my beliefs is that success is different for everybody. Success is different at different points of your career as well and at different points in your life. What you have to understand is what success means for you right now and what you’re looking to achieve in the future. Yes, you’re quite right the moniker high flying … That’s not what I think about myself but I want to be successful and I want to do well at whatever I’m working on at that particular moment.
Amanda: Yeah. Did you set a master plan, a set of goals for your career? Is that something that you do on a regular basis?
Maggie Berry: No. Not at all. I’ve never … If I’m honest, a very potted history. I’ve got a history degree. I then, once I graduated, went home to Scotland and I worked at home in Scotland for a few years. Then I came down to London in 2000 and I got a job with a recruitment firm. Didn’t particularly really understand that it was technology recruitment but I got the job and I took every opportunity that came along. Women in Technology came along and I worked on that and then I joined WEConnect in 2012. Did I have a goal? No. Was there a plan? No. Did I take every single opportunity that came along and made the most of it? Absolutely. Absolutely. Some people I meet have very clear goals and I’m almost a little bit envious of them because they’ve obviously got a bit of a path marked out. I don’t particularly. I know what I enjoy and I know the kind of things I would like to see myself potentially doing in the future. We’re going to be working for an awfully long time. When I think about careers now, it’s certainly not just one linear career path. I think we’re going to have time to have various different reincarnations in our careers because we’re going to be working for so many years. No, I haven’t had a master plan but I’ve been very lucky and taken opportunities as they’ve come along.
Amanda: Yeah. I think that whole attitude of taking opportunities can take us perhaps further sometimes than creating goals. Goals are great depending on … Again, it’s up to the individual but I’m always a little bit wary of when setting goals that you don’t set a goal and then set something so unbelievably unachievable and then you defeat yourself on the way to the goal.
Maggie Berry: Yes. One of the things that I think potentially contributes to things like the pay gap, things like women not being in as many senior positions is I think sometimes we are prone to sitting in a job that we enjoy for maybe a little bit too long and staying with companies sometimes for a little bit too long. We don’t move roles frequently enough to get the promotion, get the pay rise … when you join a new organization, you establish yourself as the senior person, not somebody who has worked their way up through the ranks. That’s a piece of advice I share with people when they start new jobs. It’s like, “Well think about how long you’re going to stay and don’t necessarily always think, ‘Well this is going to be my job for the next 10 years’ because that’s probably going to be too long.”
Amanda: Yeah. Do you know what is the average that people stay in one organization now? I know it’s dropped a lot, hasn’t it?
Maggie Berry: Yeah. Do you know what? I don’t know but some organizations are so big that you can have a whole career in one organization and in different divisions and you can work in different locations globally. I know plenty of people who have had 25 year long career in one organization but they’re never stayed in the same job for more than 2 or 3 years because they keep moving on and on and up and up in different things. I don’t know that stats but I do think sometimes when you’re happy you can stay somewhere maybe just a little bit longer than if you’re looking that career progression than you maybe should be.
Amanda: Yeah, yeah. Related to that, Maggie, about career progression and moving organizations, one thing that obviously as women we have to address because many women take that route and it’s a route I took, which is to have kids. One of the big issues that I know you will have been involved with and you still are addressing within WEConnect is how do we help women to maintain their career, continue with their careers, after maternity leave. I have a very personal interest in this question because I’m one of those highly trained IT people … I was an accredited project manager … who simply … Well, I dropped out of my career because it was made incredibly difficult for me to continue once I had my first son. From your perspective, what do you think we should be doing? Actually, what do you think both employers and employees … because personal responsibility is a big thing here … should be doing to retain more women after paternity leave, particularly in the IT industry?
Maggie Berry: Absolutely. If people talk to me and say, “What are some of the issues facing female careers?” … I do think maternity is an issue. I think we need to differentiate between maternity leave … being in a job, going on maternity leave and coming back to your job … and actually taking time out to have a family and not working a number of years, whether that’s 2, 3, 5, 10 years, whatever. I think the issue for me is more around the longer career breaks where you lose touch with the profession that you’re in or with the employer. I’d say mostly around maternity leave you have to understand the environment that you’re in and you’ll know the environment that you’re in.
If you decide to take the maximum 12 months out, well there possibly will be some impact on your role in the organization and in that time everything’s carrying on without you. I’ve certainly talked to some women, say within financial services, who’ve been very clear, saying, “If I’d taken the full 12 months, my job would have been gone and I have to be realistic” and so they took a shorter amount of time. The UK has very generous maternity leave and I have no issue with it. It’s fantastic. When I look at some of my colleagues in the US and how quickly they have to come back, it just seems so so sad that they have to leave their children behind so quickly.
I think you have to be realistic of the environment that you’re in. I also think, coming back, there has to be flexibility on both sides. For when you’ve had a big gap, that’s where the issue is. Where you’ve left the industry and your connections with the industry have lapsed a little bit and you’re coming back in. Really you’re probably looking for a job with a bit of flexibility because your kids are maybe just starting school and things like that. What I’ve seen over the last 10 years or so is a growth of more focused return to work schemes. I think employers spend a lot of time and effort on graduate higher and invest an awful lot of money in all these young people coming in. I think if only just a percentage of that effort could be spent on bringing experienced female talent back into the industry, upscaling, getting confidence back up, working with them maybe on some projects that they can work on outside of maybe the main thrust of the business so that they can spend a bit of time getting back into the world of work. I think there’s a huge amount of benefit for those kind of programs.
As I said, there has to be flexibility on both sides. Both from the women returning into the workplace and also from the employer and not necessarily thinking that they’re going to be up to speed in the space of 2 weeks because that’s not the case. There’s a whole piece around flexible working in the UK and we have still such a culture of 9 to 5 and presenteeism. Actually, especially in an industry like IT, should be able to facilitate flexible working and working from home and it should be based on the delivery of what you’re doing depending on the nature of your job. All jobs can do this but as long as you’re delivering what you need, it doesn’t matter which hours of the day you’re actually working and you shouldn’t actually be having to do big commutes every day if you could potentially work from home.
For me, the issue around maternity leave is there, there is legislation in place to support that, but the bigger issue is around when you’ve taken a bigger gap, how do you get them back into the industry. There are thousands of women in the UK with tech qualifications that just need a little bit of upscaling to get them back into the industry. We’re facing a digital skill shortage. I know so many employers that I speak to would absolutely love it if we could find more experienced female technologists. I think the pool of returners to work is completely … Well, not completely but very untapped.
Amanda: Yeah. Yes, I agree. I remember … I’ve forgotten which company it was but it was last summer I read about a a big company in London that had created a structured program to help women that had career gaps to go back into … and I’m sure it was an IT company … No, in fact I think it was a consulting … it was one of the consulting companies … They were so oversubscribed by women who had started their careers in consultancy and then had career breaks to have children. It was a phenomenal success but they couldn’t keep up with the demand of the amount of really talented, really good women who wanted to actually access this program. Yeah, the demand is on both sides, isn’t it?
Maggie Berry: The demand is definitely there and I think for some companies they’re still quite at the early stages of implementing these programs so they’ve maybe only got say 10-15 places on our program but you’re quite right, the demand would probably be for 100 people on one of those programs. Absolutely there are a lot of women who made the decision to take time out, which is absolutely fine, but how can we integrate them back into the industry quicker and more efficiently and more effectively? That, that is a key thing.
Amanda: What would you say to a woman listening to this who’s thinking, “Yeah, that’s great” but maybe she was in IT, she’s been looking at her children at home or doing something, some sort of career break, that she wants to get back into IT. She doesn’t live in London and realistically these programs are still few and far between. What can she do to proactively get back into it?
Maggie Berry: I think one of the first things to look at would be the technical skills so maybe looking at some local colleges to see if there’s some courses you can do just to get back up to speed on everything to do with the IT industry, or sector of the IT industry that you’re in because you’ve got to remember that IT is massive and there are so many different parts within it. There are also lots of programs around getting yourself work ready again. Things like getting your CV back together. Have you got a LinkedIn profile, are you connected into different groups, have you got a sense of what’s going on within your profession, within your area of expertise? I think there’s also the power of the network and reaching out to colleagues that you’ve worked with previously just to get a sense of do they know people that they could talk to. I think the power of a network is incredibly important and one of the things that we ran at Women in Technology a few times, a managing maternity course so getting ready for when you’re going on maternity leave. Things to think about before, during, and afterwards.
One of the things if you are going and you are going to take a proper break is to keep up your network and not to cut yourself off completely but to keep up your professional memberships if you can afford to and to go to some events. Maybe say, “I’m going to go to something once a quarter. I’m just going to make sure I’m giving myself that time for my career.” That’s very, very important to keep up those connections and just keep an eye on what’s going on. I talked to plenty of women who just stopped completely and they had no interaction with anybody and they’re like, “Right. I’m going to start again. Where do I start?” The connections are lost and it takes a while for them to pick up again and to reestablish connections but LinkedIn’s a brilliant tool for that because you can find people and reach out to them and get a coffee set up with them.
I know a lot of stuff happens in London. It simply does. It’s where a lot of head offices are. I have to say, I don’t know how you get around that because I think a lot of these return to work programs would probably be in head offices. Interesting you touched on consulting. Consulting often takes you all around the UK. It’s just a case of, I would say, keeping an eye open and seeing if there’s anything local to you.
Amanda: Yeah, absolutely. It’s really good advice Maggie. I want to add to the LinkedIn thing as well. Finding groups, finding the right kind of groups that are either industry specific or maybe professional women’s groups … You don’t even have to travel to network nowadays. Having LinkedIn, it’s not just about having your profile there. Just statically having a profile there, that’s important, but also just go into LinkedIn every couple of days and look what’s going on, look into a group, contribute to a group is all helpful, isn’t it?
Maggie Berry: Absolutely, there’s so much information just on LinkedIn alone. Loads. Yes and there’s so many different groups. You can keep an eye open. A lot of groups have job postings as well and there are a number of organizations, networks, that look at return to work programs as well, geared up to helping women get ready and go back to work.
Amanda: Yeah, yeah. Thanks Maggie. I want to ask you about that great big subject that is leadership, which could go on for ages. Just honing in on leadership, a word that covers all bases, I’d love to know what that means to you and what qualities do women bring to leadership and why is it important that they step up to the table and bring those leadership qualities?
Maggie Berry: I know when people think about leadership, it immediately comes to mind that you’re really leading a team.
Maggie Berry: The environments that I’ve personally worked in have been really quite small. I’ve mainly worked in an SME environment and so for me leadership has been more around issues and campaigns and championing. When we set Women in Technology up back in 2005, there were only a couple of organized groups looking at women in tech and the issue around women in tech. We really championed and really pushed that agenda. Now when I looked around there’s loads of fabulous networks supporting women in tech just as one sector, which is just fantastic. For me, leadership certainly does cover lots of different things and it isn’t necessarily just about leading a team of people. I think, for me, what I’d be looking for a leader for me are always … I like really clear explanations for why decisions are being made. I want to understand why this is the decision that is being take and the impact that it’s going to have on the organization and what I can do to contribute towards it.
When I think about good leaders, I don’t necessarily think that men and women are so different. I genuinely think when you meet someone that’s good or a good leader, they just are. It doesn’t matter whether they’re male or female. There are bad male leaders and good male leaders and bad female leaders and good female leaders. For me, it’s almost irrespective. It’s just looking at the right traits and that they’re taking their team with them, they’re taking responsibility for the team, they’re the driving force, and they’re leading by example. I’m not just necessarily taking acknowledgement for all the hard of work of their team but definitely sharing the glory. I think everybody’s different and I don’t think it matters whether it’s male or female, it’s just the good leadership traits that you want to see in whoever is managing you.
Amanda: Yes. I agree. What do you think the main obstacles are for aspiring female leaders right now?
Maggie Berry: I’m not sure it’s obstacles. I think it’s just being really aware of what you want to achieve and equipping yourself with all the skills that you need to be ready to achieve that. Networking is super important. It’s not just for seeing people. Get out there, get involved. Get involved with your local … I don’t know, whatever … chamber of commerce if you’re running your own business or if you’re in a profession, what’s your trade body in. Get yourself know and involved and building a profile for yourself, for your own brand. I do think children, career breaks, they kind of pause careers. As I touched on, I do want to see better onramping of women coming back into work. I think there are so many opportunities … It’s not necessarily obstacles, it’s opportunities and being brave enough, shall we say, to take those opportunities and apply for that job, apply for that promotion. What’s the worst that can happen? They say no. That’s the worst. The best is that they’re going to give you the job and they’re going to give you a pay rise.
Amanda: Yeah, yeah. I want to pick up on what you just said there about being brave enough. How can women be braver?
Maggie Berry: I think you just sometimes got to go for it. I’ll give an example. We at Women in Technology had an online job board and we helped firms try to hire more technical women. Sometimes we’d approach women about jobs and they’ll be a little bit, “You know, I’m not sure. Maybe yes. OK, I’ll go for it.” You’d almost be persuading them to put themselves forward. Then they’d get requests for an interview, which would be great because the employer would be like, “Great. We’d love to meet them.” Then the women would go, “Actually, I don’t think I’m right for the job and I’m not going to go to the interview” and then they back out.
I think sometimes it’s just understanding the structure that even if we just take, say, hiring and recruitment and when you look at a job spec it’s a wish list of say 10 things that the employer is looking for. They’re probably going to be really happy if they can get 5 or 6 of them and they get the right attitude and the right kind of person they want on their team. Women often look at a job spec and say, “I have to be able to do everything and more before I’ll apply.” Anecdotally, it’s much more likely that a guy will look at it and go, “Oh, I can do a couple of those things. I’ll apply for that.” I think men are a bit more speculative on how they’re applying for jobs and what they’re doing and going for a promotion. I wish women … we would do more of that ourselves and just go for it. I say, what’s the worst thing that’s going to happen? They say no. So they say no. Move onto the next thing or wait another 6 months but if you don’t ask, you don’t get. If you don’t apply, you’re certainly not going to get an opportunity to have an interview and to put across yourself and all the talent and expertise that you might bring to the table.
I think you have just sometimes got to be brave. When I was younger that book was Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway and I think if you are nervous about stuff, you won’t go far on leaving that getting some of the [tips 00:33:58] from that. Just go for things. I always had … Somebody once told me if you’re not feeling brave, just act as if you are brave. If you don’t %100 know what you’re talking about, just act as if you do because you’re probably going to be more expert than the person that you’re talking to if they’re not … Say you’re talking to a client and your company is the expert in what you’re doing, you will have more knowledge even if you don’t think you do. I think you can just be confident. Just act as if. They won’t know. They can’t read your mind. Obviously there’s situations where you can’t do that but mostly it’s just be brave. You just got to take that first step. It’s always easier once you’ve done it once. It’s never completely easy but it gets more manageable.
I remember a lady talk to me once about she always, always negotiated pay rises. She would always ask for pay rises every year. The first few times she said it was really awkward and then it just became completely normal. The negotiation, discussion around salary, it’s really awkward but it became much more normal. She’s now, “I do it every year. I’ve had increases because I’ve asked.” If you don’t ask, they’re not necessarily going to come forward and give you one.
Amanda: Yeah, I have a fantastic recent example. One of my clients went for a new job and it was completely outside of her comfort zone. She got the job and she relates this story. She said, “Yeah. Then I got the job.” Then she said, “You’ll never guess what. I said no. I wanted more money, I want a bigger package and they said yes.” She was absolutely amazed at what she could do just by asking …
Maggie Berry: Asking.
Amanda: … and not assuming.
Maggie Berry: Absolutely.
Amanda: It’s a story that we tell ourselves. By the time we publish this interview, Maggie, there will be on my blog [inaudible 00:35:08]. In fact, I’ve just finished writing it, a post called how to overcome fear of rejection. I wrote that blog post … I was inspired by, I came across a Chinese guy called Jia Jiang and he did something called 100 Days of Rejection. He did this challenge 2 years ago and his challenge was to desensitize himself from the pain of rejection. I think the fear of failure we have, and particularly women have, is a fear of rejection. I believe that is very much fundamental human fear because as human beings we’re tribal animals.
It’s really interesting this 100 Days of Rejection and the lessons that Jia Jiang learned from that echo what you have been saying, which is it’s just about doing it and asking, desensitizing yourself, taking that first step. He even quotes Susan Jeffers book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. There’s going to be some things that you ask, for example, he asked on the 97th day … so he’s setting himself up for rejection, it wasn’t particularly an ask … was to give a public speech on a public street. Even though he’d done 96 of these and you think by now he’d be like, “Yeah, I can do anything. I’m not worried about what people think, of people rejecting me.” He said he really, really struggled with this. I think that really echoes what you said, which is it’s not always going to be easy, it’s about just taking a deep breath and saying, “Let’s just see what happens.”
Maggie Berry: Yeah. What I’ve heard anecdotally from some of my connections, network connections, who do work in large corporates … What they say is that the guys are always asking. The guys are always knocking on the door, talking about what they’ve been doing, promoting their projects, promoting themselves. Women don’t do that as often. They’re doing it as regularly. When we think about things like a pay gap, I think some of the things like our behavior could contribute to it because if they ask, they get listened to and maybe they do get a raise. If you’re not asking, they’re fine then. They’re not going to be thinking about giving you more money because you’ve not asked. In some organizations its very clear and they’ve got banners of … salary bands and things like but not in a lot of private sector organizations they don’t so yeah. Ask. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Amanda: Yes, Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In is echoing exactly what you’re saying here.
Maggie Berry: Yeah. I’m going to be really honest. I haven’t actually read Lean In but I know some of the key points and I think it’s important if you want to progress and succeed and achieve, you’ve got to be engaged and you’ve got to spend time on yourself. Sometimes you might work in an organization where they’re not prepared not invest in you so you maybe need to think, “Right. Do I need to invest in myself? Do I need to get a coach? Do I need to find somebody in another organization that can maybe be a mentor for me? What other things do I need to be doing to equip myself with the skills for the career that I want.” We used to ask when we were doing the training courses at Women in Technology, “Who’s paid for the course? Have you paid or has employer paid?” We had a fairly even split. About 50% of the participants would have paid for themselves and about 50% would have had it paid for by their employer. We also used to give people tips on asking their employer to pay for something because it might be the first time that they’d asked. You know, “I wanted to go and do this external course, would work pay for it?”
Amanda: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Maggie Berry: Some of them weren’t used to asking those kind of questions and sometimes when they asked they did get it paid and that’s fantastic but I think you do need to think about what do I need to do for myself. Is it that I actually need to spend some time learning a specific skill set or actually am I wanting to be in the leadership position in a couple years. What courses do I need to be looking at? Do I need to be thinking about doing an MBA? What do other people in the organization who are ahead of me … What kind of skills have they got? What kind of things have they been doing that have enabled them to get to their positions. It’s very important to be very self aware of what you need to be, equipping yourself. I mean outside of your technical skills for your job, whatever your job might be. I’m talking about the additional skills you need to be that well rounded professional, whether it’s in technology, whether it’s in finance, whether it’s engineering, what other things do you need to be succeeding in your career?
Amanda: Oh, absolutely. Brilliant advice. Maggie, thank you very much for that. I’m going to start bringing us to a close now. I just want to finish by asking you what I think is a very important question. What do we need to do to encourage our daughters to reach higher. What do we … does our generation need to do to help the generation who will be the next leaders to … I guess get out of their own way because I think the message here is that women, we tend to hold back.
Maggie Berry: I think role models are incredibly important. I think we need to think about who are young girls in the UK … who do they see? Who are the people that they are looking up to? Quite often that’s going to be people in the media. Not necessarily teachers or parents but maybe people that they would interact with. Actually sometimes it’s not many so I think the importance of role models and skills bringing in external speakers and giving their young people an opportunity just to hear from different professionals, different walks of life and different things that you could achieve. I think that’s incredibly important. I think the inspiration can just spark an imagination and just set young people off on a completely different career journey. I think parents are big influences on the careers that children choose so we also need parents to be quite open minded about what their children are interested in.
The generation I’m from is very much around you go to school, you go to university and then you go and get a job. I think now that all the fees, the costs associated with getting university education, there are some brilliant other routes into … some fantastic apprenticeship schemes. There’s whole programs now around bringing out young people and setting them off on an entrepreneurial route if they’ve got business ideas. There’s so many different things out there and it’s just shining a spotlight on them for all young people, irrespective of where they are in the country because London can sometimes feel a little like the center of the universe because there’s just so much stuff going on here but there are also some fantastic programs around the country, especially … I talk a lot about tech because it’s where I spent a lot of time, going out and speaking to girls, talking about what a career in technology could be. It’s also the same with an entrepreneurship. There’s a whole piece around entrepreneurs and founders of companies going out and just talking to young people about their business journey, which is incredibly important. I do wonder whether the generation of young boys that are growing up alongside daughters now, how different their perspectives will be as well.
Amanda: Yes. Yes. I wonder about that too. I have … They call it Generation Y, don’t they, Gen Y, the next generation. I’ve heard that Gen Y are going to be far more demanding in terms of how they’re able to work. Take, for example, Google and the way they work. There are no set hours. It’s about you have your objectives and you meet your objectives. The whole working environment is set up to support a really, I guess empowering, healthy environment that helps their employees’ well being. I understand that Gen Y will be far more demanding of that in workplace. Then again, an interesting article I read a few weeks ago was … It was in the Guardian and it was regarding the assumption that … Well, this was about women … the assumption that women are only interested in work-life balance. They’re asking are companies guilty of benevolent sexism. The quote from this study was that … Here it is, “14% felt a benchmark of success would be a better work-life balance. 44% wanted job satisfaction while 34% wanted to define their company’s direction and leadership. It’s not more time that women want, it’s more power.” That makes me wonder if that’s this generation with women wanting power, will the next generation of women and men want more power or will they just want more time to play?
Maggie Berry: Possibly a bit of both. I think the move towards being able to work more flexibly has got to come. When I look at what must be the extraordinary cost for some of these big businesses to maintain big offices in central cities … cities in the centre of town, I just think, “How can they keeping affording to pay for that when actually you could have a small site and people work from home and they work flexibly?” You need to equip your managers with the skills they need to manage a remote team. I think sometimes that can be the missing the link in some of this. It’s setting up flexible working but we don’t actually equip internally with how you actually manage those kind of things. I think work life is important. I certainly think in London life can be incredibly busy. People do very long hours. My husband leaves the house at half past 6 every day and normally gets home at half past 7. They’re long days. I don’t always necessarily think of it as it’s about power. I think people maybe just want a little bit more control over what’s happening with their job and how they work. I think technology now is so much better equipped to be able to offer that. I think employers are gradually seeing a change.
Amanda: Yes. May that change continue on an upward trajectory.
Maggie Berry: Absolutely, absolutely.
Amanda: Of course, where you are with WEConnect Europe is really at the forefront of actually driving that change so Maggie, thank you very, very much for being here today. If you’d like to learn more about WEConnect, you can go to WEConnectEurope.org. We’ll put that in the show notes, which you can find on podcast. If you would like to connect with my interviewee today, Maggie Berry, you can find Maggie on LinkedIn. Again, I will put a link to Maggie so that you can connect to her on LinkedIn. I’m sure she would be happy to say hi to you. If you’ve enjoyed today’s show, please don’t keep it to yourself. Please spread the word. Do subscribe to us on iTunes or Stitcher. If you’ve enjoyed it, please rate the show and give me a review. That would be much appreciated. Until next time, you’ve been listening to Amanda Alexander interviewing Maggie Berry on Inspiring Women Interviews podcast. Bye bye.