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!