International Women’s Day 2021: A look back at Women in Transformation
Celebrate women's achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality.
We are always striving towards these tenets of International Women’s Day at Deltra. The reduced access to opportunities for women in the business world is well-documented and much talked about in recent years. Women have historically been shut out of the business world, and we noticed similar disparities in the business transformation space.
This made us look at ourselves: As recruiters, are we doing all that we can to help level the playing field? What can we do? For a long time, business transformation has been a male dominated industry. However, a lot of our female hires are commended for their people-focused approach, opting for persuasion over coercion. Although we knew that women could do the job, we still saw a male bias. We wanted to do something that would challenge the stereotypes.
Women in Transformation
While we noticed that conversation around the topic was increasing, there were no events that tackled the issues head on. That’s why Deltra’s co-founder, Minesh Jobanputra, and I created a new event series that would bring women together. And so, Women in Transformation was born in 2019.
We held multiple face-to-face events where women could discuss the challenges they’ve faced, offer support and motivation to each other and for us to better understand how we can help the situation improve. The reaction we received was truly heart-warming and further proved to us that forums like this are crucial in the fight for equality.
“These events are a wonderful opportunity to meet others who have gone through the same situation as you and understand how they have dealt with it.”
– Michelle Keefe, Portfolio Governance Manager at Hampshire Trust Bank
The amazing response
We were overwhelmed by the positivity that came out of our first event. Something as simple as getting women in a room to talk about their struggles was incredibly powerful. Valuable advice was shared between participants and a light was shone on issues they are currently facing. It was inspiring to hear the stories of women who have proved that women can succeed in business transformation while juggling childcare and numerous other priorities. Sometimes, being shown that it is possible is great motivation to aim high. We hoped to spark further conversation and show women in the transformation space that they weren’t alone, and we did just that.
The outpouring of support from male attendees and their openness and willingness to listen exceeded our expectations. We knew that men in the industry must be a part of the conversation and this showed us that change is on the horizon. There are companies who recognise and value the diversity that women bring to the table.
What have we learned?
We’ve been fortunate enough to have some amazing and inspiring speakers at our events. Our first speaker, Jo Varley, has over 25 years’ experience of delivering transformation objectives and so her words carried weight. Jo divulged that in her career, she had too often seen women succeed only to leave other women behind. The mentality that there is limited room for successful businesswomen should be changed to one of support and mentoring.
“Women who climb the ladder must kick it back down.”
– Jo Varley, Transformational Change Expert
Another gem that Jo shared was that men are sometimes better at championing women than we are ourselves. Too often, we don’t share our opinions for fear of being disregarded or seen as weak. Issues surrounding childcare aren’t mentioned in case it is perceived negatively. That’s why it was great to see men getting involved at our events. It became evident that the inequality that women face is also doing a disservice to men. If they don’t fit the mould, they too can feel ignored in the workplace. Taking action for equality is good for all people.
Our second event was led by Tony Sweeney, CIO at Close Brothers. Tony spoke about how softer traits, typically associated with women, are crucial for success in transformation. In fact, he believes that women often make better change leaders than men because more empathic behaviour helps build trust. Tony even suggested that great change leaders through history, such as Julius Caesar and Abraham Lincoln, employed softer traits to push change through. There is a mismatch between what leaders think is the optimal means of change and what has been shown to work best.
Another of our accomplished speakers, Anna Barsby, helped us to understand the necessity of a diverse leadership team. Simply put, a wider range of voices in management leads to greater inclusivity and staff retention. Often, women who make it into management would mimic male characteristics to fit in, effectively teaching their female colleagues that they must follow suit. Hopefully, through education and events like Women in Transformation, we can shatter the assumption that there is only one way to lead. Open and honest conversation is the first step to a more equal workplace.
“Women make compassionate and strong leaders once in roles; however, they do not always have the self-belief to apply when the opportunity arises.”
– Sophie Fisher, Programme Manager at British Business Bank
We are determined to help in the most practical way possible and for us it was a no brainer – we had to create a mentoring programme. Although our events were stirring up conversation, we wanted to have a greater impact on women working in transformation. The programme connects female mentees with male and female senior experts from different industries. Together, we hope to give women invaluable guidance and support. The programme has continued to grow, and we look forward to helping more women break glass ceilings in the future.
It’s a great shame that we haven’t been able to gather for a Women in Transformation discussion since lockdown began. I really miss the empowering atmosphere that comes with a room full of people bouncing ideas off each other. I feel that the events wouldn’t have quite the same impact if conducted over video chat. That being said, we do hope to run a virtual panel sometime soon, as we are aware that many women are facing lockdown-specific issues around work. There are fears circulating that gender equality will be pushed back by years as women are doing a greater proportion of housework and childcare. We recognise that many working women could benefit from one of our roundtable events, so stay tuned for that.
Looking forward, we really want to broaden the scope of our events. We would like to draw greater attention to the biases that exist not just for women. The BlackLivesMatter movement that spread across the globe highlighted a huge disparity in opportunity, and we recognise the role that recruitment plays in that. People from different backgrounds clearly face barriers to entry and progression, and we want to spearhead that conversation in our industry. At Deltra, we are incredibly supportive of diversity and inclusivity in the workplace, from a moral and performance point of view. To strive for women’s equality is to strive for equality of all people. Our work is not done yet.