Interview with Charlotte Gillan

Author Amy Thomas
March 6, 2019

Brewer Morris is proud to be supporting International Women’s Day 2019. International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Whilst we all know that gender parity within the workplace has improved over the past decades, we all also know that there is still a long way to go.

We would like to join the discussion and be part of International Women’s Day 2019 #BalanceforBetter campaign on the 8th March by interviewing inspiring women we work with and, in particular, understanding the role confidence has played in their career.

We interviewed Charlotte Gillan, Group Tax Director, BT

How do you define confidence, particularly in the workplace?

Ability to tackle issues head on and not being afraid to address the elephant in the room. 

How do you think the confidence gap affects women?

I don’t believe that confidence itself is a gender issue.  

Do you think women’s workplace confidence has improved over the past few decades? Please explain why.

There has been some improvement as more women are in senior positions in all professions in the last 20-30 years.  Mentoring and coaching by this group has definitely helped cascade the message that progression is possible. 

How important have confidence and self-belief been in achieving your career goals? Please explain why.

Leveraging my strengths has been a key factor in my career success to date. However, increasingly having a wide network both internally in my current organisation and externally have been critical. Having key ‘supporters’ definitely is key in achieving goals. 

Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome (where you doubt your achievements and have an internalised fear of being exposed as a “fraud”)? If so, how did you overcome it?

I think most people at a senior level will have experienced the imposter feeling at some point. However, not everyone will admit it ! I always tell myself that. By being confident in what you bring to the table and why you are there definitely helps overcome it. 

How much has risk-taking contributed to your career development?

Every career decision potentially has its own risks. I manage these risks by being really clear about what I want from a role.  Do I want a large team, lots of business partnering or complex cross border tax issues ? Only by being clear about what you want can you make an informed decision and a calculated risk. 

Can you give an example of a risk you’ve taken that has paid dividend?

When my children were young I wanted to ensure I could continue to develop and work on challenging projects whilst also working on a part time basis. 

I have always been honest with all my employers about what I wanted and needed at the time albeit with lots of flexibility on my side where needed to fit business needs. You can’t do cross border tax structuring 3 days a week when in implementation or M&A mode !  Many would say this was a very risky conversation to have as you need to work full time to show commitment.  

I do think that a lot of women don’t progress ‘up the career ladder’ as working full time with a young family or caring responsibilities is just really difficult.

How important is mentoring, coaching and sponsorship in helping women to grow their confidence at work?

Hugely important,  but not just for women.  I was fortunate at an early stage in my career to have had time with some really inspiring men and women who coached and offered support to me.  I have probably picked up hints and tips from all of them along the way. 

How can confidence-building be built into career development strategies?

If a personal development plan is based on leveraging strengths then I am firm believer that will improve confidence.  I also think doing team sessions where you focus on how you work together also will aid confidence building as they foster a supportive environment where confidence is built. 

What can be done to ensure a woman being assertive in the workplace doesn’t negatively impact on colleagues’ perceptions of her?

Difficult one that starts well before the work place ! Any leader being assertive without the context being set or the support being there will not land well with a team.