Disclaimer: Please note that all commentary and opinions provided in this interview are those of the individual and not the organisation/company they are employed by.
How can female leaders ensure they get a seat at the table?
Shirley Chisholm famously said “if they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring in a folding chair” and I think this is the key. You have to just go ahead and sit down at the table. If you wait politely and patiently for an invitation it will probably never arrive. Even more important though, is that when you join the table you need to be adding value, speaking up and choosing to challenge. It’s surprising how quickly you will be asked back to that table if you are a force for positive change. Once we have a seat at the table, I believe we have a responsibility to make room for other women and actively seek out ways to help them join. You only have to look at the media to see how women are often pitted against each other or seen to be in competition with one another, it’s so important that women support each other and work together to improve the balance at the table.
What does “choose to challenge” mean to you?
Choosing to challenge is really important to me. Throughout my early career, and indeed in my younger personal life, I would avoid conflict wherever possible – girls are taught from an early age to be nice, polite and that challenging is not seen as a very “feminine” thing to do. As I have grown and started challenging I’ve found it liberating and quite addictive! It’s amazing the influence you can have and how people will get out of your way if you are brave enough to push back or question a way of thinking. Nowadays, I definitely choose to challenge if there is something I don’t agree with, but it’s still a choice I have to actively make each time.