Women in Transformation: Q&A with Kathy Coleman

In just a few short weeks, we’ll be hosting our Women in Transformation event, with the aim of sparking thought-provoking conversations between female professionals about the issues faced by women in high profile positions. Our speaker Kathy Coleman, a Programme Director and Change Specialist, will be questioning the way workplaces address issues surrounding women in leadership and encourage the attendees to share their experiences and potential solutions throughout.

Before the event kicks off, we thought we should find out a little bit more about our speaker, Kathy and her advice on how workplaces can encourage their female employees to strive for greatness. Here’s what she had to say.

Hi Kathy, tell us a little about your background?

I started my career in IT over 30 years ago. At that time there wasn’t really the concept of Change Delivery or Change Management. I worked for a software house where we built IT applications and then rolled them out to our customers. I have worked my way through many of the IT delivery roles from Developer to Technical Designer and through to Project Manager.

From there I moved into working on large-scale Change Programmes and for the last 15 years, I have been a Programme Manager/Director. I have been lucky enough to work for some great organisations including Deloitte, RBS, Oracle, CapGemini, RAC, Axa, John Lewis and Lloyds Bank to name a few and have taken on both permanent and interim roles.

What was it that sparked your interest in gender disparity within the workplace? First-hand experience or just a passion for equality?

I think I spent the first 10 years of my career pretending (hoping?) it didn’t exist and the IT industry in the 80’s was always going to be very male-dominated. However, as I took on more senior roles, I became more and more aware of the disparity both for myself and for those around me.

I know from my experience of leading big programmes that any disparity or lack of diversity, gender or otherwise, doesn’t give the best possible outcome for the organisation or the individual and therefore it is in everybody’s interest to be more inclusive. That initial awareness has grown into a huge passion for me and goes beyond work boundaries – my friends all know that their daughters are more likely to receive a football for their birthday than a doll!

In your opinion, why has there been a fall in the number of women in leadership roles?

I think there are multiple dimensions to this, but I do feel very strongly that a significant factor is that too much emphasis has been placed on the senior roles and women on boards (30% club is one example). Whilst this is all great the bottom line is that unless we start supporting women in the right way from the moment they enter the workplace then there aren’t enough of them ready and willing to take on those top roles.

What three things do you think all organisations should be doing to encourage their female employees to strive for leadership roles?

I think there are many more than three and I also think that some organisations will demand different things than others. I think, in no particular order, organisations need to:

  1. Encourage women to build their profile, their support network and be more vocal about their achievements. Most women believe, and this is supported by their experience at school and university, that hard work and delivering successful outcomes will be enough to get them noticed and it just isn’t.
  2. Look again at diversity programmes (again not just gender) and find a way to position these as intrinsic to the strategy of the organisation rather than a tick-box exercise.
  3. Look at their culture and really understand how it helps/hinders gender equality: from the obvious, like rewarding long hours, to the unconscious bias when comparing the performance of men and women.

What encouraged you to agree to be a speaker at our upcoming Deltra event?

Deltra is a recent discovery for me having been recommended by a very trusted colleague. I love their values and the way they deal with the clients so felt very confident that being a speaker would be a great experience. That combined with a topic I feel passionate about and the opportunity to meet some senior women in leadership roles meant I jumped at the chance.

What do you hope the attendees will take away from our Women in Transformation event?

To value themselves and their female colleagues much more and to see what things they can do to nurture that value for all women within their own organisations.

If you’re interested in getting in touch with Kathy, whether about a transformation project or about tackling gender disparity, you can find her on LinkedIn or at the Transforming Change website.

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Pujan Thakrar

8th March

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