An interview with Fiona Hathorn
Thoughts on IWD 2019 #BalanceforBETTER
What does #BalanceforBetter mean to you personally?
40:40:20 on boards across the UK, at both the executive and non-executive level. 40% women, 40% men and 20% either-or.
What steps do you and your own organisation take to achieve gender balance?
We are an enabling network that supports women get the information they need to get onto boards. Transparent access to information is key if you want equality. Women on Boards UK works hard to advertise board roles transparently for FREE and helps minorities at the interview stage, by giving them the knowledge and connections they need to be effective board directors. It is our unique 1 to 1 support that minorities need and that makes the difference.
What attributes do women need to succeed today? How do you think this has changed in recent years?
As business models become obsolete more rapidly, the war for talent intensifies and change becomes constant, C-Suite executives need new frameworks and competencies to chart a path through this change and to lead in a purposeful and collaborative way that brings the whole organisation with them. Confidence and a strong supportive network of diverse individuals (cross-sector) is vital to success, as is knowledge of good governance and the boardroom. The boardroom matters - it sets the culture and direction of the company.
Women can be accused of being ‘aggressive’ where a man would be labelled ‘assertive’. How do you get your voice heard at work?
Strong communication skills are essential to effectiveness throughout your career, not just in the boardroom. Those that understand influence and engagement constantly think about how to gain the advantage. Those that self-monitor and have a HIGH understanding of self and are chameleon in nature, with regard to their behaviour towards others. Sadly because of historic norms, women are judged by our deeply embedded bias as to 'how' women should or should not behave. This is the current reality. Those women who are effective in a male-dominated world understand influence, and understanding influence is vital. Women on Boards UK covers influence in all of our corporate leadership workshops.
Which female leaders have inspired you throughout your career?
Caroline McCall (CEO of ITV and ex CEO of EasyJet), Christine Legard (Current Head of the IMF), my first boss Philippa Gould alongside women like Inga Beale (ex CEO of Lloyds of London)................honestly I could go on and on. There are hundreds of fantastic women who have and do inspire me. Today we are not short of role models, we are just short of women at the top in business as a percentage of the C-Suite and on boards.
What or who inspires you to succeed on a daily basis, either professionally or at home?
I am inspired by helping others - which is why I launched Women on Board in the UK. Money / Power / Recognition, what does it for you? For me it is recognition. Since we launched in the UK in 2012 we have helped over 1500 women get onto a board and supported many many more women, and some men, applying for board roles. We receive on average one email a day from a member who has just successfully joined a board, 5 a week. Reading their stories and hearing about their achievements is what keeps me going. #LOVEIT. Take a look at our OnBoard list, it is impressive => OnBoard List.
What message do you want to give to tomorrow’s young female leaders?
Research shows that managing our own careers is fundamental to success – whatever that means to each of us. Importantly, it’s critical to stop and think from time to time about where we are headed, what information, people, learning, tools and other resources we might need to get there, and what our timeframes are. Career management is a lifelong thing – it is not ‘once and done’. You need to regularly take stock, revise or refresh plans and manage through unexpected events – because they will occur. Some people are naturally great at this, while others spend a lifetime trying to figure it out and end up disappointed. Men have historically tended to manage their career and women have not, this is primarily because women have been seen as carers, not breadwinners. This is changing and a career plan is a must. Career plans evolve and change, as we change as individuals. All I want to do is to ensure that younger women, in particular, realise the need for a career plan and that their career choices and decision matter, emotionally and financially. Every decision you make has a consequence so please dream, think long term and invest in yourself.
Note: Women on Boards UK run a series of career development workshop and leadership courses. Click on this link if you want an in-house ‘Managing your Career’ workshop and/or an On Track for Success workshop. We also run a Getting to the C-Suite, modular leadership course for women who are looking to take on serious ‘stretch’ promotions (GtCS course information).