At Deltra, we’re invested in finding new ways to help drive diversity and inclusivity in workplaces. It was this commitment that prompted us to start our own mentoring programme, where we connect talented women with senior advisors in their industry.
It’s thanks to our mentors that our programme has had the impact that it has, and to help you understand more about them and the work that they do, we recently spoke to Sandra Di Vito, a trusted Deltra mentor who recently participated in our most recent Women in Transformation event as a panellist.
Sandra is currently a board member at Moorhouse Consulting, with a background working as a consultant at PwC and a change and innovation director at MetroBank UK. She is passionate about empowering women and encouraging them to be the change they want to see.
In this interview, Sandra speaks on why it’s crucial to challenge existing structures in the workplace, the significance of diversity and the impact of confiding in mentors with similar lived experiences.
Why do you think it’s important for events like Women in Transformation to take place?
If I'm really honest, until a few years ago, I wasn't very tuned in to issues of gender diversity and inclusion. I was building my career and I'd been successful – I didn’t feel I was facing significant barriers due to my gender - but the turning point for me was having my kids.
When you become a working mom, you realise that the gender imbalance is soon going to creep in. Organisations can be very gender diverse at the more junior levels, but when women reach the age when they start to have babies, we tend to start seeing many women wanting to change professions, work part-time or not work while their children are young.
After I had a baby, I returned to work four days a week. The combination of having kids and working part time made me see all the barriers, and the consequence of this meant that in senior roles, there are very few females. When I joined PA as a Partner, there were 156 partners globally and I was one of only eight women. Similarly, when I came to Moorhouse, I was the first female partner to join the team, and at the time women only made up 5% of the top three tiers of the business.
Since having my children, gender diversity has become very real for me. It's probably over that time that I've known Minesh and I've been invested in the Women in Transformation group and the work that Deltra has been doing.
When I've come to the events that he's run, you can see that it's a really engaged audience. This is something that people are really grappling with, whether you’re a woman trying to work your career, or whether you're a senior male in the industry who’s thinking: “I've got a massive gender imbalance in my team, how do I correct this? What are the issues? How do I fix the problem?” That's what made me quite interested in the topic.
Since you joined Moorhouse, has anything changed?
Yes, women now make up 35% of our top three tiers, so it's been a massive shift from a gender perspective. But as you start to solve one problem, you start to look at diversity from several different lenses, and then you realise that you haven’t quite cracked it.
I think that one of the most important ways of addressing it is having representation at the top table. If senior leaders have a shared lived experience with unrepresented groups, they are more likely to drive for the change needed to make the organisation more inviting.
One of the things I championed at Moorhouse was active support of mothers returning from maternity leave. We created a community of returning mothers, put a package of support around them to ensure that they felt supported when they came back in. This is especially important to me because I know from personal experience that it’s a tricky time, and it’s when you're typically going to end up losing colleagues who come back and say, “This feels too hard.”
We now have a significant and growing group of returning mothers in the business and hopefully this is sending a message that it's possible to have a career in consulting while juggling the demands of motherhood.
Have you seen any policy and process changes regarding diversity?
We have implemented many family-friendly policies at Moorhouse, including part-time and flexible working contracts, adoption leave and time off for dependants. These policy changes have only happened because of the people who have been prepared to raise concerns, and fortunately the organisation has been receptive. While I know that not all organisations are responsive to changes in policies and processes, it’s important to ask and encourage the changes.
I think Covid has normalised flexible and remote working. While previously many organisations were very resistant to this, employers have now seen that it can work and there is a strong appetite for this from employees, so it’s hard to go back now. It’s been great to see this change.
Do you think it's important for women to have mentors in their career?
Definitely. I think you need mentors in your organisation, but it's also helpful to have mentors outside your own business. A blend is important; people within your business know the stakeholders and politics and can help you to navigate that, but they can also advocate for you in the right forums.
Having mentors outside your organisation helps you think more broadly about your career journey and can also assist you with navigating moves out of your organisation when the time is right. That’s what I liked about the Deltra mentoring programme; There aren’t many programmes like this out there and I can really see their value.
Have you ever had a mentor?
Yes, but not formally. I tend to connect with people both inside and outside my organisation who I admire. I try making time to just connect with those people on a reasonably regular basis, sharing my experience and asking for advice; that’s how I manage it. Those relationships have changed throughout my career, depending on what role I'm doing and where I'm working. I have noticed that I have actively surrounded myself with senior working mothers over the last few years; women I look up to and can learn from who have a similar lived experience to me.
Do you have any advice for women who are struggling with the gender imbalance in their workplace, or are going through some of the issues that you've spoken about?
I think it’s important to surround yourself with people who can support you. Even if they're not in your own organisation, look at your broader network and find people who understand your circumstances and can give you practical support and guidance.
The other thing I would say is don't wait for things to be right in your environment – you have to “be the change you want to see”. When I came to Moorhouse, they'd never had a female Partner before, let alone a part-time working mum in that role. When I asked to work part-time, they were supportive. It took courage for me to ask, and it took courage for them to accept!
It was really inspiring to hear how Sandra used her seat at the top table to instil more inclusive working environments for those who had previously been overlooked. Speaking to Sandra really emphasised the importance of working in an inclusive space, and the role that we can all play in supporting and advising our peers.
If you would like to follow Sandra’s example in taking on a mentee, or if you’re a woman in transformation and change that would like to be paired with a mentor, head over to our Mentoring Programme page, sign up, and we’ll be in touch.
Mentoring Career Advice