Friday, 16 September 2016

Why We Could Do With The Right #Woman for the Job As Well As the Right Person for the #Job.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about recruiting the right person or indeed the right woman for the job. I am picking up this topic again today in light of what we are reading about 'mistreatment' of women at Apple Inc in Cupertino, California and also the culture that is emerging from the comments made by those who suffered the mistreatment, with the environment described as 'toxic' by female employees according to the New York Times.

I think we can all agree that any job should be assigned to the best person for that job. This means that nobody should really pay any attention to gender, sexual inclination, race or religion, but simply to the mix of expertise, experience, mind-set and skills that make that individual the most suitable for the job.

I think this is absolutely ‘fair enough’ and can hardly be disputed. However, I would reiterate that  the right person for the job cannot be found unless it sought among a variety of backgrounds, gender, communities etc. that mirror the diversity in our societies and also in our customers and audiences, supplier base and colleagues.

Thus, I would argue that unless the recruitment process provides access to a range of candidates that include women as well as men, and women and men of different races and backgrounds, the recruitment will not produce an outcome that is representative of what we see out there in the real world.

When I was discussing this with the male executive that spurred my first blog on the subject, he suggested that ‘it would be a very sad workplace indeed the one where only white, middle class men were appointed to senior roles and to the board’. But, unfortunately this kind of workplace is still common place and in-fact one hears of too many executive recruitment processes in which diversity is not identified as a key criteria at the outset. Apple's female workforce is over 30% of the entire population but the company was recently criticised by investors for having a very white and male board.

Why this matters is not only because it has long been identified by extensive studies on this topic that mixed teams are more innovative and productive, so diversity makes commercial sense and it is good for companies' bottom line.

The fact is that particularly in traditionally male dominated industries such as technology, engineering and the likes, women candidates tend to be harder to find because women know at the outset that they are going to be faced with a challenging culture, in which women may be sidelined, overlooked for promotions, made to feel inadequate and so on. This inability to attract women however perpetuates the current culture and create further barriers for talented women to be attracted to that industry.   We find ourselves with a 'Catch 22' type situation.

Workplace culture is critically important in today's highly competitive markets. It drives employees engagement and as such it has an immediate impact on your customers and again on your bottom line. Companies spend a lot of time and energy analysing workplace culture, deciding whether their own culture is 21st Century ready, as one may put it.

So, to the question why the right person for the job might actually be the right woman for the job we can now provide not one but two answers: 

1. We need more women in the workplace and in senior positions in order to positively affect workplace culture, eliminating outdated behaviours and communicating to possible new recruits that the company culture is inclusive and collaborative.  
2. We also need more women in the workplace because in practical and simple terms mixed teams are more effective and productive.

As today's news demonstrate, not even the trendiest and apparently most desirable places to work  are immune to this, but women speaking up can hopefully lead to incremental change.

Alessandra is an experienced mentor, business coach, consultant and strategist. She supports individuals - especially women - and organisations in achieving their potential through customised, outcome driven interventions . You can find out more about Alessandra here and contact her by email here. 





Thursday, 8 September 2016

Summer of #Inspiration, #Women Through the Lens - Sarah Prentice


Welcome to the last of this feature blogs! Summer is over and so all good things
must end. I hope you have enjoyed reading about women's roles and careers and 
before we go, do not miss the interview with Sarah Prentice. Sarah used to be my mentee and she has gone on to really great things in the catering and hospitality industry. Enjoy!


Describe what you do, your job/s
I am the Business Development and Marketing Manager for an independent contract catering company called Blue Apple. We run fantastic staff restaurants within the business and industry sectors and my job is to win new contracts and to lead our Marketing and Design Team who produce all of the promotional material for our 55 restaurants.

What does a typical day look like?
The beauty of this job is every day is totally different. What might be a priority in the morning can often change throughout the day. After a quick cuppa and catch up with the team I check and respond to my emails. I work closely with Lucy our Business Development Co-ordinator on any outstanding tender responses which is crucial to our success, this might include completing financial spreadsheets, writing bid responses and designing menus. One day I might be office based all day and the next I could be on a sales visit, meeting a potential customer and visiting their onsite restaurant or hosting a sales visit to one of our restaurants so that our prospective clients can see and taste what we do.
What are the best and most challenging things about your career?
I love it when we win new business, it is so rewarding and you just can’t beat that euphoric feeling - I wish you could bottle it! The toughest part of this job is when you have put your heart and soul into a bid and then lose. You need to be resilient, learn from your mistakes and move on to the next opportunity. My previous boss told me about the SUMO position = ‘Shut Up and Move On’ and it always makes me laugh and move on to the next opportunity with a positive ‘go get it’ attitude.
How did you get to where you are today, including qualifications and skills?
I didn’t enjoy school - I left with a few GCSE’s and didn’t go to college or university, but I always had a good work ethic and was never out of work. I worked for an international coffee company for many years as a customer service/sales executive and developed in sales from here. I have worked my way up to my role by hard work, learning from others and having the confidence to put myself forward for opportunities and then delivering them. With the right attitude you can go far!
What would you recommend to a younger colleague wanting to start her career in your area or sector of expertise?
The hospitality industry is the best place to be. There are so many amazing opportunities for everyone, be it in sales, marketing, finance or of course in the kitchen as a chef, plus it can be really well paid. The contract catering industry is crying out for hard working individuals and lots of the bigger companies have fantastic placement schemes for school leavers or graduates. Having a passion for food obviously helps!

Friday, 26 August 2016

#Emotions Are What Makes Face to Face Best!

Holidays are over and I have been back networking over the last week. Meeting people for one to one  catch ups over coffee; attending structured business networking events with like minded women; holding small get together with former colleagues.

Every opportunity has rekindled my passion for entertaining relationships face to face rather than on line. I must admit, I am quite fond of social media and I like to tweet regularly and update my LinkedIn account.

Yet, never mind the number of likes and followers, every time I attend a meeting or have a face to face networking event I deeply relish and enjoy the opportunity to get to know other people and find out how others work and do things; what people are interested in and what they are up to.
True, as human being we are 'social animals' and enjoy the contact and engagement with others. But what exactly makes face to face networking so much more compelling than social and virtual networking?

To me, it is all about finding out who we really are . When people sit or stand in front of you, when dialogue opens, a joke and a laugh are shared, people feel they are getting the authentic you. 

It is very hard to convey the same feeling in the virtual world....Emotions make up a hugely important part of that encounter. Whether somebody is going to remain engaged in the conversation with you is often dictated by emotions that are displayed, the feeling conveyed, and the way we make them feel.

It is our emotions, our emotional intelligence,  that engages with people, over and above our expertise or reputation. By attending events and engaging with people in person we give others a quick glimpse of who we are, perhaps a slice of ourselves. That is the biggest present we can offer to people and the one that will be remembered at a time when a specific expertise is called for.

Alessandra is an experienced mentor, business coach, consultant and strategist. She supports individuals - especially women - and organisations in achieving their potential through customised, outcome driven interventions . You can find out more about Alessandra here and contact her by email here. 

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Summer of #Inspiration, Women Through the Lens Sarah Clayton Turner

Sarah Clayton Turner is my guest blogger this week. I have known Sarah for a while as we share an interest in Women and also in the Travel Industry. Sarah tells us about her business and her work life.

1. Please tell us what you do  

I started my own business seven years ago providing primarily marketing consultancy to small and medium sized travel companies who are looking to expand their marketing activity in the travel industry, whether it be B2B or B2C.  This includes brand development, web site traffic growth, advertising, strategic marketing consulting, including marketing plans, PR, event management, business development and copywriting. So it’s very varied.  I have worked in travel for the best part of 20 years now, starting off in tour operators and then bed banks and even a travel recruitment company but always working in the Marketing department.  I am also on the board of the Association of Women Travel Executives, so my role of Website and Communications Director also keeps my busy.  I’m also a mum of a five year old, so you can imagine that also keeps me on my toes!

2. What does a typical day look like?

A typical day for me starts of with a quick email check as soon as I wake up (yes I’m one of those!), as one of my clients is based in Dubai, which means a time difference so I may have received emails during the night.  Once I’ve packed my daughter off to school it’s back to my laptop to action anything urgent and get on with my day.  There’s no ‘typical’ day, literally everyday is different depending on which client I’m working for and whichever project is currently underway!  However, laptop closes at 3pm to do the school run, sort out various clubs that she attends and then dinner.  Once she’s in bed and calm has been restored, very often the laptop comes out again to continue work in the evening if deadlines are looming.

3. What are the best things and more challenging things about your career?

The best thing about my career is the industry I work in.  I adore the travel industry - I have made some fabulous contacts over the years, many of which have become very good friends over the years.  But equally working for yourself has a lot of benefits, flexibility being the main one; having the freedom to be a mum as well as uphold my career.  The more challenging part of running your own business is ensuring you have enough work. Equally you are always ‘on call’.  Work never stops, so I’m always checking emails and taking my laptop on holidays!  Also, as we all know, marketing can be one of the first areas of a business to see cuts when times get tough, so it can also be challenging trying to explain to businesses that they need to remain visible and continue promoting themselves when they want to cut marketing budgets.

4. What would you recommend to a younger colleague wanting to start her career in your area or sector of expertise??


The best advice I can offer a younger colleague wishing to start your career is network!  It can be daunting to begin with, entering a room full of people who seem to all know each other.  Truth is, yes they probably do but everyone is just as keen to make new contacts…so put your ‘brave knickers’ on and just get stuck in!  My business would be nothing without my contacts.   So try and attend as many events as possible.  AWTE is a great source of networking, often running informal free networking events (which is rare these days) as well as more formal development sessions.  

Friday, 5 August 2016

The Best Person for the #Job or the Best #Woman for the Job?

I have been discussing this topic with a senior male executive recently.

He said that, when it comes to hiring, his wish is that the job is eventually assigned to the best person for the job. This means that nobody should really pay any attention to gender, sexual inclination, race or religion, but simply to the mix of expertise, experience, mind-set and skills that make that individual the most suitable for the job.

I think this is absolutely ‘fair enough’ and can hardly be disputed. However, I would take it a step further by saying that the right person for the job cannot be found unless it sought among a variety of backgrounds, gender, communities etc. that mirror the diversity in our societies and also in our customers and audiences, supplier base and colleagues.

Thus, I would argue that unless the recruitment process provides access to a range of candidates that include women as well as men, and women and men of different races and backgrounds, the recruitment will not produce an outcome that is representative of what we see out there in the real world.

The male executive I was discussing with agreed that ‘it would be a very sad workplace indeed the one where only white, middle class men were appointed to senior roles and to the board’. But, unfortunately this kind of places still exists in my experience and in-fact one hears of too many executive recruitment processes in which diversity is not identified as a key criteria at the outset.

People say that ‘women candidates for senior roles’ are hard to find and that is probably true for a number of reasons that go from lack of self-confidence to lack of networking and everything else in between. But this only increases the need for women/diversity and for candidates who are sought not just from the obvious places but from more imaginative ones.

In particular, let’s not only consider candidates that have been brought up doing the same role in the very same sector but at a competitor’s company. Or candidates that have a totally linear career, no breaks and no pauses, whether for childcare, elderly care or any other ‘non-professional’ reason. Or candidates that only come from a handful of universities…and so on.  

This approach is inevitably more challenging of the 'status quo' and probably means more hard work and out of the box thinking for those involved, but it has more chances to produce a long-list and a short-list of candidates that is really diverse and inclusive. Indeed it is quite possible that, with this approach, the right person for the job may ultimately be the right woman for the job.

That to me would be the right step in the right direction.


I would love to hear from you people out there, particularly those involved in executive recruitment, about your experiences of short lists and long lists and how much diversity is pushed from companies when it comes to senior candidates. Can we make the right person for the job the right woman for the job?

Alessandra is an experienced mentor, business coach, consultant and strategist. She supports individuals - especially women - and organisations in achieving their potential through customised, outcome driven interventions . You can find out more about Alessandra here and contact her by email here. 

Friday, 22 July 2016

#Mentoring and #Leadership - How to Find a #Mentor in 3 Steps

I find that one of the things I am asked more often when talking about the role of mentoring in leadership is how to go about finding the right mentor. I believe this is because nowadays people understand the value of mentoring but still find it hard to ask an individual to act as their mentor, possibly because they are worried about rejection or being thought of as time wasters.  

But I also find that these worries are often unfounded as potential mentors tend to be people who love to give back and that is why they attract others as mentees as they naturally inspire and motivate those around them..

 So for those of you looking to enter into a mentoring relationhips, here are some quick and easy tips to follow in order to find the right mentor for your needs.

Step #1   - What do I need a mentor for?
This is the most obvious step and yet often the most overlooked. As in most situations, clarity of thoughts will bring clarity in aims and outcomes.  You can usea simple reflection exercise that I have already introduced in a previous blog to find out and reflect on what a mentoring relationship is going to deliver to you and how and to what extent a mentori s going to improve your leadership skills for the better.  Just so you are not left wondering the reflection exercise simply asks that you answer these 3 questions:

a.       WHAT (do I want)?

b.      SO WHAT (is going to do for me)?

c.       NOW WHAT (am I going to do differently as a result)?

Spending some time answering these questions is going to help you vocalise to your future mentor why the relationship is important and what your expectations are. This in turn will help the mentor clarify whether he or she can deliver on your expectations!

Step #2   - Who do I know that can help?
To answer this question you can make use of any brainstorming tool you may be familiar with, such as mind mapping. Or indeed you can borrow some techniques from stakeholders analysis and draw three circles, each respectively for internal contacts (people in your organisation or in your private friends and family circle),  external contacts (suppliers, organisations or businesses you deal with, clients) and interconnected contacts (such as people in clubs you are member of, whether work or hobbies and interests related, university alumni and so on).

Either you will find that one or two of these people have exactly what you are looking for and thus make ideal mentors for you or you will find that amongst them there are people who know people who can make the perfect mentor for you.

Whatever the case this is an important exercise because it will force you to take stock and think through your network and how you use it.

Step#3 – Approaching and asking
Once you get to step 3 it should be just a matter of asking a simple question, but far from it, people find this final step the biggest hurdle to conquer! Yet do not be mistaken, if that is the case, it means the previous analysis has not been completed with sufficient clarity and depth.

If we assume you have, then you can approach your mentor either by email, face to face or one of the many networking channels at your disposal depending on how many degree of separation there are between yourself and the person . Face to face will always be the best way in my view but if that is not an option as the future mentor is either geographically remote or not a close contact, you can still pop the question virtually!

Always remember to introduce yourself politely, explain why you are approaching them and if they have been recommended by somebody else or they have met you before also explain the circumstances. Ask for a first informal chat or meeting to discuss your needs before expecting them to commit to a full relationship.     Use a little bit of time to build the relationship and see if the chemestry works too.

Once the mentor has agree to a first date, virtual or otherwise, the pathway is open to step up the relationship to a fully fledged mentoring one! At that point the most important rule is to stay committed and agree the way forward as far as meetings’ schedule, length, areas to discuss and so on.

Whatever  you do remember it is mostly up to you, the mentee, to make the relationhip work. If you do, I am certain that you will reap enourmous benefits and enjoyment. Bear in mind that what I have described above is a process to use for informal mentoring, not requiring monetary exchange. Should you decide that you require a professional mentor, you will need to approach the process differently and you can ask me about it directly if interested.

Good luck  with your mentoring efforts, do feedback if you have found this article helpful!

 Alessandra is an experienced mentor, business coach, consultant and strategist. She supports individuals - especially women - and organisations in achieving their potential through customised, outcome driven interventions . You can find out more about Alessandra here and contact her by email here.

Friday, 15 July 2016

A Summer Of #Inspiration...#Women Through The Lens - Rashmi Chopra, Solicitor specialised in Employment Law

For my second feature of #Women through the lens I introduce you to Rashmi Chopra, solicitor and queen of networking. I met Rashmi at a networking event myself and we enjoyed talking to each other so much I asked her to be featured in the series.

1.    Please tell us what you do

I am a solicitor and specialise mainly in the area of Employment law. My practice also includes Education law.

2.    What does a typical day look like?

There is no such thing as a typical day and it varies according to the demands of casework that I have conduct of, and the needs of the work. My tasks range from:
 
a) attending hearings at the tribunals:
b)  taking instructions from clients;
c)   drafting claims or defences, witness statements and tribunal submissions and letters to the other party;
d) advising on clients’ workplace issues such as disciplinary and grievance matters;
e)    reviewing the merits of the case;
f)     negotiating settlements;
g)    other case management issues such as billing and record-keeping and checking the post;
h)    providing training at seminars;
i)      reviewing and drafting contracts and workplace policies and procedures;;
j)      keeping abreast of my areas of law;
k)    writing blogs for the firm’s website; and
l)      networking.

3. What are the best things and more challenging things about your career?
 
Employment law if one of fastest changing areas of law due to the impetus from Europe (alas, no longer!). The best thing is when I get a positive financial result for the client either following negotiations or after the conclusion of a hearing.
 
Challenges I face is clients’ ability to afford legal fees, particularly following a dismissal. The government as introduced a fee paying regime in the Employment tribunals, resulting in a over 70% drop in tribunal claims, nationally, and as such denying people access to justice. Coupled with the fact that in order make a claim for unfair dismissal an employee must have been in employment for a period of 2 years. Issues such as these act as a deterrent to making claims as the legal process is onerous and expensive.

 
4.    How did you get to where you are today, including qualifications and skill
 
I was the only girl with three brothers. Being a girl in an Indian family, meant less preferential treatment particularly in relation to being allowed out of the house and do normal things that teenagers do. My father being a mathematics teacher, and fanatical about the subject, I was forced to do mathematical subjects. Other subjects that I excelled in did not matter to him. I gave up my math studies which annoyed my father to no end. This meant that I was ready to be married off.  In order to disencumber from what I saw as an oppressive home environment, I ran away. At first I felt isolated as we had only recently arrived to the UK from Zambia, and did not know many people at the time, but I soon made friends and acquaintances.
 
I got involved in civil rights issues concerning low paid workers. I was the first ethnic minority woman paid full time trade union officer (field officer for the health service trade union), across all trade unions. So my appointment was a historical one. 
 
This is what generated my interest in the law, leading me to study as a mature student and began my legal studies at the age of 36. It was the best move I made, even though I had to make personal and financial sacrifices to maintain myself to achieve my goal of qualifying as a solicitor. I was self-motivated and my previous experiences assisted me in being able to grasp legal concepts more easily than my peers. My mature outlook in life made me good communicator.
 
5.    Your proudest (work) moment


Being appointment as the Chief Assistant Solicitor (Head of Employment Law) at the City of London Corporation gave me a real sense of achievement, in that my hard work, determination and acquiring legal knowledge had paid off. During my tenure I had several successes and received many testimonials from other Directorates.




6. What would you recommend to a younger colleague wanting to start her career in your area or sector of expertise?

My advice is to a younger colleague would be to only enter into this field if you are self-motivated and committed to withstand the challenges ahead of them. Hard work and determination pays off.