20 Gems on Women in Leadership

By amandaalexander | Leadership

On Thursday, 15th September I attended the Women in Business and Leadership Round Table at the House of Lords, chaired by the Rt. Hon Baroness Warsi PC. The event was one of a series of Round Table discussions.

Women have a significant contribution to make in leading cultural change and driving a model of collaborative leadership. The Round Table event focused on the key qualities of leadership, strategies to increase diversity in businesses and harnessing technology to support a blended work life balance for all.

The panel members  were Clare Barclay General Manager SMS&P, Microsoft UK, Griselda Tobogo Managing Director Forward Ladies, James Cliffe Head of Business Banking UK HSBC Commercial Banking, Margaret Totten, Managing Director, IA Cubed (IA3) and James Maunder, Director of Information and Digital Services, Institute of Directors.

Here are my own “top 20” gems of wisdom, wit and wonderment that I drew from the discussion on women in leadership: 

1. We very quickly limit ourselves because of what other people tell us what we should be doing, particularly when we are children (you have to ignore this!)

2. Bring your emotional intelligence to work, not your emotions to work

3. Don’t underestimate the power of a sponsor in your career. A sponsor who has identified you as emerging talent can be highly influential in you securing your new role.

4. Don’t just focus on getting female representation on interview shortlists. Invite women on the interview shortlist panels, as well. We all have unconscious bias and this gets injected into the recruitment process. This is why you need women in the interviewing loop.

5. You can’t bridge the achievement gap if you don’t bridge the ambition gap. As a leader, you need to nurture – create – the ambition in emerging female leaders

6. Females have no fewer aspirations than males, but they do tend to have less confidence.

7. However… young men share similar anxieties to young women. But they usually cover it up with bravado.

8. But generally, men ask for pay rises. Women don’t. BIG CLUE to the gender pay gap!

9. How do leaders juggle work with family? There’s no panacea.. There are no more hours in the day when you’re more senior! You simply get better at figuring it out!

10. Have the courage to be yourself, but also build on other people’s experiences.

11. We will have progressed a long way with gender equality when we STOP treating women having babies as an exceptional event.

12. The only way we’re really going to crack the work-life balance nut is by leaders REALLY walking the talk.

Lead by example: Work from home one day a week, for instance. By doing this, you give the best kind of permission to your team to do the same.

13. Here’s a novel idea to actively lead from the top with work-life blend and employee well-being. Tried, tested and achieved 100% success when implemented by one of our panelists for his staff: Tell your staff that they will score poorly on their performance evaluation if they haven’t booked annual leave by the next review meeting!

14. Bring your whole self to work, not just your half self – i.e. you with your work hat on. Let your colleagues get to know who YOU are (see point 10 … it’s all about true authenticity, not pseudo authenticity!)

15. Work is an activity, not a place. Think about this one in the context of agile working and work life balance/blend!

16. There is an urgent need for the UK government to review the support (or lack of) for self-employed women when they have a baby.

17. Ultimately, women have to take control of their own career – nobody is going to do it for them.

18. We need to start asking ourselves WHY we’re not asking men the same kind of questions as we ask women, such as: “How do you balance work with family?”

19. On asking a group of school children the question: “What do you want to be when you’re grown up?” the no. 1 answer for boys was: “Footballer”.


The no. 1 answer for girls was:

“Footballer’s wife”

Infinitely more depressing.

Moral of this story: We have a lot of work to do!

20. And finally, albeit somewhat in contradiction to point 19.. “The next generation will be much better at this than we are!”

Here’s hoping! 🙂

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