By Stacey Winters, Sector Leader in the UK for Aerospace and Defence, Deloitte
To be bold means showing a willingness to take risks, to be confident and courageous, and have a strong and vivid appearance. These traits don’t always come easy to people, and sadly even less so among women – particularly in the workplace.
The evidence is there in the numbers. Research from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and XpertHR in the UK last year found that men are 40% more likely than women to be promoted in management roles. In early 2017, it was also announced that the Scottish Parliament was going to look into Scotland’s gender pay gap for all employees, which currently sits at 15.6%.
Those are just some of the reasons why this year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #BeBoldForChange. The more of us that join together and take a stance, the better chance we have of tackling gender inequality head-on. While steps have been taken in the right direction, it still exists in a range of professions, sectors and industries; reflected not only in pay or a chance at a leadership role, but in many others too.
Throughout my career, I’ve worked in industries that have been predominantly populated by men. However, proudly, I built a team that is 90% female in a traditionally male-dominated sector – a situation that would have been unthinkable when I first started out. It’s encouraging to see such change, and while the pursuit of a career in this line of work often resulted in me being the only woman in the room, it was being bold enough to take action that helped bring about that change.
The power of women’s networks is often undersold. I have found that women share more openly about challenges they face in the work place than men. Having a forum to discuss these challenges with other women in a non-judgemental environment helps women build confidence and recognise they are not alone. Surrounding yourself with other women can help you manage your stress as you climb the career ladder.
Before I was married with children, my career was my main focus. I would travel around the world at short notice – going wherever my job needed me to be. But I struggled to maintain the same outlook when I returned from maternity leave.
Of course I still love my job and I still like to travel, but my priorities changed and I found it difficult to determine how I could be a good mum and still be good at my job. I needed to find a new way of working that would allow me to have a better balance but also give me the career satisfaction that I desired.
I contemplated a new job after returning from maternity leave but that didn’t feel like the right answer. When Deloitte launched its Agile Working Strategy, it transformed my life. Launched in June 2014, I immediately put it to the test. Thanks to the initiative, I have been able to work hard, and dedicate a healthy amount of time to my family – something I promote to all women around me.
In August 2015, I made a bold move and relocated back to Scotland, remaining a London based-partner. Despite there being no business reason for me to move, I was fully supported by my partners. The move was entirely a personal one; to be closer to my parents and live the family life I aspired to.
For a year-and-a-half, agile working allowed me to work in the Edinburgh office on a Monday, spend Tuesday to Thursday in London or abroad, and work from home on a Friday. For the first time ever, I got to take my kids to nursery and pick them up twice a week. Small things make a big difference, not only to me but to my children. And moving didn’t limit my career – I became the Head of Risk Advisory for Scotland in January this year, giving me a work reason to be here!
Striving for a career that doesn’t allow you the personal life you want isn’t sustainable in the long term. For any woman struggling to balance the scales, I believe there is no reason you can’t go far in your career while maintaining a happy and grounded home life. This can actually end up being the very key to your success.
So let’s be bold, stand up for what we believe in and what we think will better our careers. Seek the support from others, and provide it to them in return. Let’s create a culture of both women and men in business who are there for each other, not afraid to talk about family life and priorities; to be confident and courageous and #BeBoldForChange.
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