This is an interview from the Inspiring Women Interviews Podcast with Amanda Alexander: Interviews are with female leaders and female role models who advocate helping ALL women to achieve success. Our aim with these interviews is to inspire women and men to “lean in together”, to coin Sheryl Sandberg’s term. Together we can change the World!
Hi, this is Amanda Alexander, and today I’m interviewing Vicki Cooper, Software Group Acquisition Sales Leader at IBM UK. Vicki is not only the acquisition sales leader at IBM. She’s also founder, member of connecting women in technology across industry support group for women in technology, so we’ll be talking a lot about women in technology today on how we support women, on how we close the gender pay gap, particularly within technology, but we’ll also be talking about balance because Vicki not only is being the sales leader at IBM for acquisitions, is a mom of four children, so Vicki with that in mind, we were talking before we started recording about your Charles De Gaulle moment, so welcome and please can you tell us about that Charles De Gaulle moment and what it meant to you?
Vicki: Sure, thanks very much Amanda. Well I think it was probably about 10 years into my career, I had had two children of the five at the time and I quite a big role across Europe and I was getting to the point where I was all work and no play. I really got to the stage where my career was really had taken off and it was crazy. It was absolutely crazy and I refer to my Charles De Gaulle moment to the point in which on a Friday evening and it was in November and it was an absolutely dark and horrible night, I was stuck at Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris trying to get home Friday night late, and I really look back and I can remember now feeling very very tired and worn out, really worn out. I really resolved from that point onwards to change things.
I’d got to the point where I’d had enough, so I wanted to change things for the better and I wanted to get more balance into my work and my life as a whole really.
Amanda: How did you do that?
Vicki: Yeah, it was actually quite a tough thing to do. You can’t really do these things quickly but I made a number of promises to myself and the first one was that I would only take, from that point onwards, UKI roles, U.K. and Island roles. That would mean I would only be away potentially for one night and I’d probably not any night at all from the family. I would particularly be much more likelihood to be always at home at night. That really set me into another set of roles that revolved around much more of a U.K. centric career.
Amanda: Up until that point you said you’re 10 years into your career and it had been all work and no play but you have two children at that point and both under five, how had you actually managed with two young children under five with that all work and no play?
Vicki: Well, I think to that point I decided earlier on that I needed help so I did have a nanny and as I had a couple more children that they came through, I did have an au pair as well. I threw resource at the problem and I managed at home in the way that I managed at work. I managed teams, I delegated a lot, I made sure that things were on track, so that was the main way I did it. I’ve always been fortunate, IBM has been very good at providing flexible working and so most weeks I’ve always been able to work at home on a Friday now, and that’s really made a huge difference, huge difference, to what I can get done, how I feel about working, and my ability to be able to manage my home life as well as my work. At any stage if we do have to work late, you can work from home late, which feels a lot more comfortable.
Amanda: Yeah, and I’m interested that you said working at home on a Friday has made a huge difference to the way you feel. I think that’s really important, isn’t it? About how you feel.
Vicki: Yeah, absolutely right, it is. Even if, it might not happen every Friday, and I do plenty of meetings on a Friday but it’s almost a principle that you are trying to work to so that you don’t burn out and so that you’ve got that little bit of extra that you can fall back on.
Amanda: Yes, it doesn’t help, doesn’t it? Being at home, just cutting out the travel and being able to sneak in the little bits that seep into everybody’s life whilst you’re working as well.
Vicki: Yeah. Exactly. I mean I can not remember though a time where I’ve had to be in the office from 9:00 to 5:00. There’s never been a time in my working life, in the IT industry, where I’ve had to be at a desk for a particular time. We’ve always had that flexibility and it’s been a huge difference.
Amanda: Before IBM, how did you grow your career in technology?
Vicki: Well I did a degree in business management initially. I joined ICL and did my graduate training at ICL, always focused on a sales role. I worked for IBM as part of my degree as an intern, and I’d always wanted to come back into IBM but I never really found the opportunity to do so since IBM wasn’t hiring graduates at the time I graduated, so I went to a competition, stayed there for a couple of years, and then I felt very pleased with myself because I managed, I sat down one weekend and in a frenzy almost wrote to the competition and wanted to get another role and I managed to land the role at IBM, really through persistence and tenacity.
Really I was very focused on training to ensure that I got the right role and that I was hired as an experienced sales hire, although I’d only done two years experience. I actually came into IBM and managed then to grow into much more senior roles and grow, firstly starting in the hardware business, then services, and lastly in software which is where I am now.
Amanda: Okay. I’m going to ask you about persistence and tenacity, but before I do, I’ve got to say I started off my career as an ICL graduate trainee as well.
Vicki: There you go. It was actually a very good cause, very good cause.
Amanda: It was a very good cause, yeah. Persistence and tenacity, you say through persistence and tenacity you got into IBM, but in real terms what does that mean? What did you actually do to show them that you were persistent and you had tenacity?
Vicki: Well it was interesting. They rejected me first time around, IBM rejected me, and I looked at this rejection letter and I could see no reason for rejection. They didn’t give me a reason so I phoned up the HR lady, who’s at the bottom of this letter, and I said, “Can you tell me why you’ve rejected me?” She could not answer me. I said, “Well I’m working for your competition. I could do this, this, and this,” we’ve just launched a Unix hardware box at the top and in fact I said it’s actually where IBM we’re about to launch a system into the open systems market and so I said, “You’d be crazy not to look at my CV.” This lady agreed with me and she put my CV out to a number of line manager and I think it was something like six interviews later I managed to land a role.
Amanda: Six interviews, wow.
Vicki: It was ridiculous, it was quite ridiculous, but got there in the end. That’s where the tenacity comes in in this game.
Amanda: Well that is a great story because how many people would actually call the HR department and say why have you rejected me and I wonder if they did how many would have got a different results as you did?
Vicki: I don’t know. I think maybe it’s just worth checking these things. It’s worth asking the question. I don’t think, at the time, due diligence had been done on me as a candidate. Now maybe more due diligence is done today, but you don’t ask you don’t get, right?
Amanda: Has that attitude of not necessarily taking no for answer, has that attitude and that quality of just, “Okay let’s just see what else is here,” has that followed you throughout your career in sales?
Vicki: It has because it’s normally not the first answer which is the right answer. It doesn’t matter whether you’re … It’s true, it’s true, I mean it doesn’t matter when you’re dealing with a client in a particularly bid situation, or a situation where you’re interviewing for a particular role, you’re trying to encourage a candidate to join your team, or whether you’re going for a promotion. Normally, there’s something else going on so you need to be I think a little bit more persistent and to answer the question of why and what else is there behind this because normally there is other things going on that you probably don’t know about unless you ask those questions. That is actually a theme.
Amanda: Have you had any other times throughout your career that you can recall, I’m putting you on the spot here, where you have not taken no for an answer? That you’ve followed through and it’s resulted in some sort of success?
Vicki: Yes. I can remember, I don’t often get emotional, I remember only twice in my career getting emotional and normally I’m in a situation where it desperately, I thought at the time, unfair. I actually was looking for a promotion, I wanted to get through to the next band, and my boss was being quite laid back about it. He was being quite, I guess avoiding the question. I can remember very clearly arguing with him, and putting a very logical argument in place in fact as to why I would be good in the role and why I deserved the promotion. I did get emotional, walked out of the office, slammed the door, had a good cry in the corner, came back in, and actually he listened. He decided that I had a fair point and I’d made a good enough argument because he did realise a number of things that probably I should have told him in advance in a more constructive way but it also just came out with me explaining in vast detail what needed to be spoken about at that time so I think that really has helped me, that sort of approach.
Amanda: Thank you for that. I wanted to ask you, we’ve talked about your first 10 years into the career and then that Charles De Gaulle moment. I just wanted to rewind back and just ask you about the children. You’ve got four children, Hannah, Alexander, Natasha, and Sebastian, how old are they now?
Vicki: 19 down to 13.
Amanda: You have four teenagers?
Vicki: Yes, I do.
Vicki: Yes, they’re great though. They are really self-sufficient which is fantastic because I’d always said that if there was a problem with any of them I would put them first. To me if they had an illness or an issue or problem I would have changed my career, but as it happened I think then I not needed to do that nor needed to make those decisions fortunately enough, but what I have been able to do, and I constantly remind or reiterate this to them, that I wanted to be a role model to them. I think it’s very important to have role models and to be able to see how [inaudible 00:14:26] possible. I was keen to do that and part of that was working and continue to work throughout my career on a full time basis really.
Amanda: Do they ever talk to you about how you have been a role model to them? Have you seen the impact on your children and in what they’re going, ages 13 to 19, they’ll be thinking about their careers now I guess.
Vicki: Yeah, no they are. We have this conversation only at the weekends actually because they are starting to think that they can take the responsibility, both the girls and the boys, it’s not just a girl thing, because I have two boys and two girls so they understand that they need to be responsible financially for themselves and they need to understand that its not an optional thing, it’s something that needs to be, is good for you and it’s a positive thing. We are here to do some sort of work and some sort of good in this world, so that’s really where we’re coming from.
Amanda: They’ve got those values of contribution and putting into the world?
Vicki: Yeah, I think they’re getting there. They are teenagers remember, so it’s going to take a few more years to get them to actually understand it but yeah I can see the green sheets of that sort of thinking going on so that’s good.
Amanda: Do you still have a nanny or how does it work now when we’re working and you’re … I’m guessing you’re still not flying around after that Charles De Gaulle moment?
Vicki: No I’m not flying, fortunately, and haven’t done for many years on a regular basis anyway, but what’s working now is my husband runs his business from home so he does a few kiddie runs in terms of activities and things like that. They are pretty self-sufficient, but there are still a few runs that they need to do. My daughter, age 16, is a national level, she performs national level to [inaudible 00:16:51] so she trains 16 hours a week so there’s still those sorts of activities to get them to. I have a cleaner and I have had au pair’s but they come and go so it depends on how I’m feeling as to whether that works or not but mostly in the last few years, it has been around au pair’s and cleaners that help me out, so I don’t have to do absolutely everything myself, but also the kids have got to do their chores as well. That’s the way it works.
Amanda: I’m very interested to know how you get the kids to do their chores?
Vicki: Well it’s a lifelong battle I think but they’re certainly better with it than they used to be and I think as they get older they get a bit more mature. They do start to understand they need to do a few things. Yes, they will help if asked to clean now which is good, rather than ignoring the subject, but yes I don’t think you ever win that battle entirely.
Amanda: Yeah. I don’t think I’ve met anybody yet who has children who quietly get on with a job regularly without being asked.
Vicki: No, it doesn’t happen I don’t think. Certainly not with my children anyway. They might exist somewhere but no I haven’t come across. I have a 13-year-old, he’s very good but he needs to be asked and sometimes I get response that’s a little bit like, it sounds like a caveman rather than a human being.
Amanda: I wanted to ask you about the outsourcing thing because one of the things I think that women come up against is if they haven’t achieved a level of seniority in their role, which evidently you had, or putting it bluntly, they haven’t achieved a level in their career where they can get the help with childcare for example, get the nanny or whatever. We’ve all heard about the issues with the cost of childcare at the low end of the scale, but there’s also I think a very real problem for professional women who possibly starting out in management or mid-level management and their salary is not able to support them with the outsourcing they need and the issue is that they go into a viscous circle of getting completely frazzled, trying to grow their career and also trying to have to do everything at home as well. I’m interested to know what you think about that? What is it that we can do about that because I do see this is a very real issue for women kind of stuck in the middle.
Vicki: Yeah I do agree with you. I think there is an issue. I have always been quite, I guess really discerning about what help and childcare I choose. I would always be really quite clear about the criteria for a nanny or an au pair or even a cleaner, anyone that comes into the house. I know exactly what I’m looking for and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t work out and if it doesn’t work out, move on, nip in the bud, move on because things won’t change very easily normally. It’s better to make a fast decision and admit that you made a mistake if you have done that, but I think we still tend to be very cautious.
A lot of people I know are very cautious about au pairs, their foreign, they don’t understand my children, they can’t communicate very well, etc. etc. I think we’ve got to be more flexible. I think many au pair’s that I have had have been more than capable. Their English might not be perfect but they are very intelligent, they learn fast if you work with them and help them and build their confidence than they can be fantastic. I’ve had au pair’s that stayed with me for two to three years sometimes, so it just depends on how you work with them, but it also means that you do have to take a bit of a risk so not every [inaudible 00:21:28] is some ultimately qualified. An au pair’s not qualified, a nanny is qualified of course.
It’s that balance between the two and being as flexible as possible around your childcare solutions, which means that ultimately it’s the cheapest possible as well because an au pair is much cheaper. You do have to have a room for them. An au pair is live in so you have to have a room for them in your house or nearby. It can be difficult but I think we do tend to be very bit precious, a little bit black and white about that they must be this and they must be that. I think if we can be more flexible, encourage people to take the responsibility because often if they’ve had brothers and sisters, they’ve looked after brothers and sisters, they’re fairly capable, you know that they’re intelligent because they’re in the middle of a university course or they’ve done a university course, than you’re in pretty good shape there.
You are in pretty good shape and you can spot it if there’s a problem and you can nip it in the bud. That’s the way I worked on the basis of which I’ve done it and that’s been, for me, quite a good way of doing it but you do have to mange them properly.
Amanda: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Again, it’s another management role basically.
Vicki: It is. I mean I say it all the time. I manage at home, I manage at work. That’s the way it is. I don’t think you can do this sort of thing unless you’re happy with that really. It’s very difficult.
Amanda: I remember when I was in IT having, we moved house and Max was six months old and I was coming back from maternity leave and I found a child minder who I thought was very very happy with, very comfortable with, but the problem that we couldn’t figure out was that the child minders hours, which I think were, I can’t remember, probably 8:00 or half past 7:00 until 6:00, did not cover me for my hours plus travel, so there was no way that if I was travelling to my office everyday, which about an hours drive away, down the M56, that I could get back to pick Max up in time. My solution to that was to apply for flexible working and to ask if I could work from home, and the response was, you’ll laugh at this, “There’s no such thing as a part-time project manager,” and, “No you can’t work from home because that would be setting a precedent.”
Vicki: Hard work, right?
Amanda: Yeah it is. I think it comes back to what we were saying earlier, before we started recording the interview, you were talking about how important it is to choose your manager.
Vicki: Yeah, no that is really a very important thing and that’s not always possible of course, I appreciate that, but I do encourage anyone to try and do that if you’ve got an opportunity than choose and choose your manager almost as important as your role.
Amanda: I agree. You say it’s not always possible but I have seen so many times with people who are miserable in their career and it seems to me, I would say they’re miserable in their career and I’d say about 70% or 80% of the time, they’re miserable in their career because of the manager that they have. I think when it gets to that point, whether it’s to do with your work life balance or whether it’s to do with feeling valued or whether it’s to feel that you’re not, any other reason, if you have a manager who is toxic or who’s not forward thinking or any number of reasons, then it is time to look for a new manager, whether that’s in your organisation or outside the organisation because there’s not really much you can do. You can’t change them, can you?
Vicki: No you can’t change them but I have been in a situation where I have actually had to put up with it for a few months, for half a year or whatever it is in order to then, another reorganisation comes around the corner and you can start to influence where you report in, what you do, etc, so sometimes you have to bide your time depending on where you are in the year and what’s happening in the organisation but I think it’s definitely, you have to have a plan. You definitely have to have a plan and always have a plan B.
You’re on one line of thinking but at any time, especially in IT, there’s always the opportunities and transformations happen all the time. The business organisers transform every six months in IBM so you really have to make sure that you’ve got a plan B, you know if this plan A, that the job that I’m doing now in the organisation I’m doing now, were to fail for some reason, which is possible, then what would I do? That’s the plan B and that’s the way I’ve worked, certainly, in the last 15 years I would say because it’s been essential to have some other ways of looking at things and another option.
Amanda: It goes back to the way you feel I guess and if you feel that there’s a way out and you’ve got your cunning plan in the background, as it all goes to hell in a hand cart, then it’s always easier to deal with a difficult situation in the present period of time.
Vicki: Yes, exactly, but as you know you can press a button any other time because you’ve got options.
Amanda: Yes. Options are a great thread of creativity I think.
Amanda: Okay. I know you do a lot of work supporting gender diversity initiatives and I wanted to ask you about Connecting Women at IBM that you founded in, was it 2009?
Vicki: Yup, that’s right. We’ve been going for awhile now. Yup.
Amanda: Did you have a specific mission when you started Connecting Women?
Vicki: I think to be fair we knew that we wanted to create a network where women felt safe to vent, to have an environment in which they could talk about work issues and get advice and guidance from mentors in the business who understand the situation they’ve been in, so that was the first thinking. Then, I think it’s developed over time and it’s got a little bit more sophisticated as a well of also providing personal development opportunities and networking, really. Understanding where the next role could be, so that’s really added to the strength of the network over time.
Amanda: How many members do you have in connecting women now?
Vicki: Well, on a regular basis we will have, we operate it by office, so effectively by region. Scotland, Manchester, Lee, Warwick, London, etc., so there’s about 12 or so locations which are operated by a location leader. Typically if we have an event all together than we can have anywhere from 300 to 500 people attend. We do a lot of bottom line events. We are able to contact and have as part of the network, of the e-mail, everyone in the U.K., all women in the U.K., which is about 5,000. We e-mail everyone and we end up having, probably I’d say, about 20% of those who are regular attendees and they understand what the networks there for and how it can support them in their careers.
It varies according to subject in terms of how many members we have and who attends and what level and what seniority. It really does depend on the sophistication of the project and the subject area we’re talking about. No, I was just going to say, it is very well supported which is fantastic and to still have the role today, increasingly as the other domestic constituents do with the other networks in the U.K. as well so we link up with them quite a bit now.
Amanda: Within connecting women and also within your role, I actually forgot to mention, as a member of the U.K. women’s leadership team for gender diversity, within IBM, what do you think, what is the kind of … What am I trying to ask here? Relating that to the gender pack out which has bene in the news a lot recently, a study from Deloitte said it’s going to take 50 years to close it in the U.K. and then the world economic forum said that it’s going to take 171 years globally, which is up from 118 years. Obviously you’re kind of at the centre of supporting gender diversity within technology. What is it that we’re doing, I guess I wanted to ask, what is it we’re not quite getting it right yet?
Vicki: Well I think there are a couple of areas. Firstly, we are still not making the IT sector attractive to women. I think it’s still seen as geeky and a bit boring and despite the fact that everyone’s got a mobile phone, they still don’t relate it to the fact that this is the world we’re in now. It’s much more of a consumer led world and much more mobility and much more apps driven then it ever has been, even business to business in IT is going much more that way. I think we’re not doing a good enough job in getting across the career opportunities there are to women and the opportunities we’ve got, which are broad and exciting and really developing all the time so they’re becoming very exciting given the pace and the rate of change of technology. I think that’s one thing.
I think we’re also, it’s a lot down to women’s choices and a lot of women I think opt out. They decide not to continue their work if they did have a professional role. Before children do they continue? Some of them don’t and why is that and what happens there? Well, women I’ve spoken to, they genuinely aren’t encouraged to stay and I think there’s a lot about something we can do from an employer point of view to reach out to those women, to keep in touch with those women, to ensure that they understand that there isn’t anything to be scared of here. They’ve got more complications and more difficulties within their lives because they’ve chosen. It is more complex having children and working, but there’s nothing to be scared of. There’s plenty of people who’ve done it and done it very successfully, so you need to have a little bit of, I guess a ballsy attitude towards moving on and getting the place you want in your career. I think if you’ve got that thick skin you can really make some progress but you have to take on the fight. Take on the roles.
Amanda: You do. It takes courage and what I see a lot is …
Vicki: Courage, yeah.
Amanda: Yeah, women get frightened and I think they get frightened that where they are now and the role that they are now is the only one and if they move then they will have undone the good work and there’s a certain loyalty and I’ve seen it a lot with other people saying, “You’re on to a good thing now,” and if they want to expand, if they want to advance their career, it’s that risk, it’s that can I afford to take that risk? What about the mortgage?
Vicki: Yes. I think it is tough. It’s not easy to make that decision but nine times out of 10 there are enough people around to support you and give you advice. As long as you take advantage of the people around you, and you really do hook in with and find role models, find people to talk to, I think you’ll get the support if you reach out. That’s been my experience.
Amanda: For those people who are listening and who are perhaps thinking, “Well I don’t have anyone within my organisation to reach out to,” what advice would you give them?
Vicki: Find someone outside your organisation would be good. It doesn’t matter. There are plenty of networking events around, too many almost, and I think there are plenty of women who are more senior who are willing to help and willing to give their time and give their advice. It’s only really a phone call or an event away. You could start to build a relationship with somebody that could really make the difference and I’d encourage anyone who’s in that situation to do it and outside your organisation sometimes is a really good thing.
Amanda: I think so too. I tend to say to people, just use LinkedIn, start seeing who you’d like to sound off on LinkedIn because networking now can be done online before it’s actually done in person.
Vicki: Yup. It works, it definitely does, and people are much more open if you are clear about what you are asking. Even if someone asks me something but I don’t know who they are, as long as they’re asking me in the way that makes a huge amount of sense to me, I know who they work for or what the situation is or I can relate to it and I can help them, then that’s fine. I would give them that support.
Amanda: What you’re saying, be clear about what you’re asking is be very specific, “I need some help to, I want to change my career, I want to change the industry,” can you help?
Vicki: Yeah. I mean, I don’t think we need to beat about the bush. It’s really easy these days to have those, you can message anyone you’re LinkedIn with and it’s hugely valuable. I’m not sure it’s really used as much as it should be as a platform, as a way of really moving. I think more men than women use it. I don’t know. I seem to gather a lot more of that sense at the moment but I think we really do need to make sure that we use all the tools at our disposal.
Amanda: I think one of the things that gets in women’s way is the, “Oh my gosh, what will other people think of me? They’ll think I’m pushy? Who am I, who is little old me, to contact that person who’s a senior director? They’ll never pay attention to me,” so maybe you can reassure anybody listening to this as a senior director how you would handle somebody reaching out for help.
Vicki: Well I would suggest if someone articulates, and it has to be short and easy to read and respond to, we don’t want huge diatribes of messages going around because I think that really is a bit of a put off but if someone’s clear about what they’re asking for, than I think that’s absolutely fine. I would suggest go for it. What’s the worst could happen? They don’t respond. Probably the worst thing that could happen but if you actually are really targeted with your question, you link in to someone to say, “I see that you’ve got this particular expertise in big data or in the analytics business, I’m trying to solve this particular problem or I’m looking at moving into that area, would you prepare to have a phone call with me,” then I think that’s a good way to progress. It’s a good way to have a conversation.
Amanda: Yeah, absolutely, thank you for that. Vicki, just before we wrap up, there was something that I wanted to ask you about related to attracting more girls into technology. I came across an article the other day and it was about engineers saying that only 8% engineers in the U.K. are women. The article posed a really interesting solution at the end for attracting more girls into engineer and it was about presenting an engineer career as problem solving to girls because there was a theory there, which I actually agree with, that girls like to focus on that purpose rather than on the how, on the process of it. Apparently one university has even created a degree in humanitarian engineering, so the focus is on designs, for example as an engineer you could design and affordable solution for clean drinking water. You could make a difference, or for medical diagnostic equipment, and that’s shown to, it’s drawn women to the course. What do you think of that?
Vicki: I think it sounds fabulous. I think we know that if we use the right wording in job adverts or in words that attract women, that we will get more women to apply. Same thing in trying to get women into engineering, it helps to have a female friendly set of words and there have been a lot of studies done on this subject and if it does appeal to that problem solving side, the purpose, strategic input and also supporting humanity and people that are less fortunate than ourselves, I think that’s a huge, huge benefit, and I find that when I do use those sorts of wording or use something that really just appeals and is slightly less, I guess less clinical.
A little bit more female friendly than it makes a big difference. I think there’s a lot to be said about using that sort of strategy for getting women into tech because we really have still got a huge problem and although IBM hires 50/50, men to women, that doesn’t sustain throughout as we know. We need to have those sorts of strategies in place when we’re building, and reaching out to our schools and universities, etc. I think it’s a fantastic idea.
Amanda: I like the idea about a female friendly set of words.
Vicki: Yeah. We know. It does work.
Amanda: Is that kind of avoiding jargon. Again, as you said, focusing on the purpose, on the why, on the how you can help rather than on a whole load of technical jargon and programming language in a job advert, is that what you mean by female friendly set of words?
Vicki: Yeah, I don’t think I would suggest that we hide the skills that are required to do a particular role because that would be incorrect but I think we do need to make a job advert or an engineering degree or something we’re trying to attract women into something that actually speaks to women. That uses their language. That reaches out to them in the way that touches them. That’s what’s important and the more we know about how to do that, the better. We need to implement those strategies. I think they work, they definitely work.
Amanda: Do you think we’ll be able to close the gender pay gap in the U.K. in less than 50 years?
Vicki: Yes, because more men are on board with that than ever before. I think to have men as allies and men supporting that cause is where I’m seeing things change, and engineering is one area.
Amanda: Oh yeah, I so agree, and I do think there’s a lot of work to do to help men understand what gender equality means and what it means for them and how it will benefit them.
Vicki: Yes, and I still think we’ve got a long way to go there, just by the fact that we’ve been banging on about it a long time. It always staggers me how many male leaders don’t understand why we’re having the conversation. They don’t understand that more diverse teams are more successful. If you have that diversity, you will get more success, you will increase your bottom line and we know that from all of the McKinsey studies that we’ve done since 2001. It really is a story that needs to be understood and acknowledged by male leaders.
Amanda: Yes. It surprises me as well, especially when you talk in figures and the cold hard fact that it will increase your bottom line if you get a 50/50 male female split and there’s quite a few companies, especially Nordic companies I believe who have achieved that and have found that their bottom line has increased. When you’re faced with that, is that what you do to try to educate those male leaders who aren’t on board?
Vicki: Yes. That’s one strategy. The other strategy is to understand when they’ve got daughters, which works quite well as well.
Amanda: Tell me more. If they do have daughters, what do you do, and if they don’t what do you do?
Vicki: Yeah, well if they have daughters then typically they will start to be coming across to the fact that it’s not an even playing field, so it’s not as even as they thought it was before they had daughters anyway. You can normally understand and get a conversation and a dialogue going as you start to understand whether they are thinking about writing their daughters about which career to go into, how to actually be successful. That’s another way of having the conversation.
Amanda: Yes, that’s a good one. When they don’t have daughters?
Vicki: If they don’t have daughters sometimes you can also have the conversation, I know our some senior leaders have got autistic children, dyslexic children, that’s a very very common situation these days and so if you can get to understand what their personal situation is, sometimes you can have those conversations as well because it doesn’t matter whether they, if there’s any sort of understanding of how teams should be made up and to be successful, then they will think about how they would employ their children or maybe they’ve got nephews and nieces or normally once you’ve had a conversation with some of them more than 10 or 15 minutes you can understand where a hook could possibly be. It tends to be over a cup of coffee or somewhere, at an event or something like that where you’ve got a little bit more of a conversation opportunity.
Amanda: Finding the hook.
Vicki: Yeah, exactly.
Amanda: Vicki, thank you very much. Thanks very much for being my guest today on the inspiring women interviews podcast and thank you for being inspiring. I’m taking so much out of this interview and I will speak to you soon.
Vicki: Lovely. Thank you very much. Appreciate it, Amanda, bye bye.