At Beehive Money we're proud to champion the women in our teams and we have a whole host of strengths to celebrate. This year we're celebrating internally with a Women in Finance workshop led by our senior female leaders, including our CEO, Sue. Here we chat to Sue, our Head of People & Development Anne and two of our Non-Executive Directors, Kavita and Kerry all about their career journeys so far as women leading in business to inspire and share their story.
Tell us a little bit about your career history...
"It was a bit of a mixed start to be honest. I left school at 17 and had a choice from the careers master of 3 things: Pheasant farmer, panel beater or a trainee legal executive. The legal executive seemed like the best plan especially as it was for a criminal lawyer but unfortunately they didn’t offer me the job and offered it to a man instead. As there weren’t many options, I decided I had nothing to lose and went back and persuaded them to take me on as well. After 2 years they got rid of the other person and kept me on. He is now a very successful lawyer so it all turned out for the best for us both! After that I tried a few things including hospitality and then ended up in banking through being a trainer. Since then, that first piece of confidence and resilience has played through many times."
"I started in retail selling shoes when I was 14 and this sparked my passion for people and great service. After university I joined M&S as a personnel graduate trainee at the Metro Centre store. After 2.5 years and a brief tour of Scotland, I moved to Boots and spent 14 years in various HR and Change roles. I left Boots for Rolls Royce – a great company but I missed being close to customers so I then joined The Nottingham 8 years ago where I have had the privilege to build and lead the People & Development team and get involved in our Community work which I love."
"I have been lucky enough to have had 2 successful careers. A 20-year career as a Solicitor, the last 9 as a corporate finance partner at renowned international law firm, Allen & Overy LLP. Then a portfolio career as a non- executive director for the last 18 years."
"I qualified as a lawyer in 2001 and have stayed with the same Midlands headquartered firm throughout my career (originally Martineau and, now through various mergers, Shakespeare Martineau) working my way up the ladder. I’m a corporate lawyer, specialising in legal and regulatory advice to investment funds and have held/hold a number of management and governance roles within Shakespeare Martineau. Alongside being a practicing lawyer, I've started my ‘second life’ as a non-executive director and was delighted to join The Nottingham Board in 2017."
What were your biggest challenges along the way?
"When I was younger, I suffered from the fact I was in a very male dominated roles as well as the fact I didn’t have any qualifications. At one point someone came in above me who was younger and un-proven, so I challenged my manager as to why? They said that he had qualifications and consultancy experience so I decided that I would cover off the first part by doing a MBA, marketing diploma and finance diploma to avoid that challenge and build my confidence for the future. I did this whilst running lending for HBOS, so it certainly worked in terms of gaining respect from the doubters.
I also came across the full range of leaders from the great to the terrible. Whenever I've dealt with poor or terrible, I've needed to find a way to move on as who I work with has always been really important to me."
"Understanding that motivated and engaged people deliver better results and helping leaders to make people-centred decisions. Working on some major change programmes which affected people and always working hard to deliver difficult news appropriately, respectfully and supportively."
"Overt sexism, amongst other things, was endemic when I started work in 1984. The biggest battle was to get oneself taken seriously – a considerable degree of resilience was needed to try to make sure that the world of work didn’t grind you down."
"Being perfectly honest, I haven’t really had many obstacles other than setting my own ambition and objectives. I’ve been lucky to be presented with opportunities and choices and the difficult decisions have been around which to take, stick or twist in terms of staying at Shakespeare Martineau and what I want to do next."
What support did you have, if any, to get to where you are?
"There are some fantastic people out there both inside our own organisations and beyond and people who are willing to help out and support for no payback. I have had support from a lot of great people. Both men and women!"
"I am very grateful to have worked with lots of fantastic people within HR whom I admire and are role models for me as well as some fantastic inspirational leaders who build great teams and deliver great outcomes. I have always believed in getting stuck into things and learning as you go – that means you don’t always get it right first time but you always learn and grow."
"There were many women in the same position as I was, which fostered camaraderie and mutual support. I also had good support from my parents."
"I've been lucky to have mentors both professionally and within my wider network plus the support and encouragement from family and friends."
What traits do you think great leaders possess?
"They care about people and build great teams and also have great vision and ambition."
"A clear vision, curiosity, listening and a willingness to learn. The ability to build great teams and create the conditions for the team to do great things together."
"IQ obviously, but also a liberal dose of EQ and a sense of humour and some humility."
- Clear vision and being passionate about what you are trying to achieve
- A good communicator, but also a good listener – open and honest conversations
- Building the right team and relationships - the ability to bring others with you and earn respect
- Be open to new ideas, but also be able to make difficult decisions when required
- Being self-aware and striving for continual personal development to be better
How do you think things have changed in more recent times for women wanting to progress?
"I genuinely think it is now a balanced field in terms of ability to progress and potentially men are feeling it is more difficult to progress due to positive discrimination. I am in two minds about positive discrimination, and it should always be the best person for the job. It’s great to see women can progress and I’m very keen to ensure they are able to be themselves – and everyone should be able to have balance and support to be their best whoever they are.
"I remember only a few years ago it was hard for women to talk freely about looking after their families whilst also trying to build a career – we have made so much progress and opportunities to have flexible working and balance home and work are much better. We still need to do more!"
"I think the playing field has changed since 1984 but that things are not yet as they should be and that it is not level yet. Overt sexism is not as apparent as it was, but subconscious bias is still with us. Some careers and professions are more egalitarian than others. Generally more women are progressing more quickly and I get a buzz when I’m privileged enough to see this happen. I like to think that the women in my generation have (through what we have achieved) helped to change the world of work for women leaving it in a better place than it was when I started work."
"There's a better understanding that a diverse range of voices round the table make for a better debate and decision. Empowered (or agile) working and technology has also made career opportunities accessible with the ability to balance home and work commitments. We also have better female role models in business showing what can be achieved. This has all given women more opportunity to join the conversation and progress at senior levels."
Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. A world that's diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women's equality. Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.
International Women's Day (March 8th) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women's equality. IWD has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people. We've been part of the Women in Finance Charter as a Society as part of The Nottingham since 2016.
Our key priorities to create this inclusive culture include increased focus around a diversity and inclusion awareness and education programme at all levels. If you want to support International Women's Day you can download lots of resources from their website such as Selfie Cards, worksheets for children, activity packs and much more.