It is estimated that there are only 6 female CEOs in the UK’s top 100 firms and there is still a long way to go to get equality for females within the workplace. So how can we empower our female colleagues and support businesses to ensure they have diversity within the workplace?
Bruin’s recent webinar featured guest speakers Noha Amin and Cheryl Thompson who shared their insight, tips and personal stories of how to break down barriers and empower women.
Noha Amin is a Cyber Security Consultant who has been widely recognised for her contribution to the tech industry, including as a ‘Top 30 Women in Tech in Manchester’ by Manchester Evening News. Her experience of being one of a few women in a male dominated industry and returning to work after maternity leave have been key drivers for her championing of diversity and inclusion within the workplace.
Cheryl Thompson is passionate about enabling women to be proud of who they are right now – and not waiting till tomorrow. After 15 years of successfully leading within Financial Services and striving within a male dominated environment, Cheryl has combined her learning and experiences to coach and mentor businesses on empowering women. Cheryl aims to help women recognise their skills and thrive within their workplace by being the best possible version of who they are.
Working in a male dominated environment
Noha shared the importance of the foundations that her family gave her and particularly how being treated equally to her brothers gave her valuable grounding in her career. Noha encouraged attendees to recognise and celebrate their achievements and project manage their skills, by carrying out a SWOT analysis on themselves. This process is an honest assessment of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, which Noha has capitalised on in her own career by using this as a guide to inspire action.
Cheryl noted that not everyone benefits from a similar background of support that Noha experienced, but it is possible to build up your confidence by reprogramming your thought patterns to be more positive. Cheryl shared some tips for shifting your unconscious mind by using positive affirmations and daily mediation techniques to increase your ‘theta waves’.
Creating empowered environments
Noha referenced one of her favourite quotes, ‘surround yourself with people who will lift you up,’ and stressed the importance of visible role models, emphasising her belief that ‘if you can see it, you can be it’. She explained the steps she has taken to build her professional network through LinkedIn and industry events. Noha detailed how she continuously raises her profile by seeking out industry experts, sharing her achievements, offering professional help wherever possible and asking for constructive criticism. This has enabled her to build a rapport with successful professionals from whom she can learn.
Cheryl reiterated the importance of LinkedIn and raising your profile through authentic offers of assistance, as a way of building a community and giving back. She noted that Noha’s description of feeling intimidated about speaking at industry events, but not allowing fear to get in the way because ‘everyone has to start somewhere’, was a powerful example of how to reframe something that could have a negative outcome into a positive step forward.
Asking for what you want
Noha shared an example from her career which illustrates the importance of asking for what you want – and trusting your employer, the organisation and the process. On joining one company, Noha noted that a number of religious holidays were celebrated, including Christmas, Diwali and Passover, but not Eid. She flagged this to her employers, who as it turns out, were unfamiliar with the holiday. They responded positively and were supportive of her suggestions for corporate celebrations. After the event Noha received many messages of thanks from other employees for her actions, but she wondered to herself – if this is something you wanted, why hadn’t you asked for it before?
Cheryl noted that this highlights that key to getting what you want is to “know what you want, ask for what you want, expect to receive it.” This can be applied to multiple different scenarios in the workplace, from asking for flexible working, or opportunities to lead on a project. But people often talk themselves out of asking for what they want, before their employer has had a chance to say ‘yes’.
Returning after a career break
Having returned to work twice from maternity leave Noha shared that it was important to recognise the push and pull factors at play after a career break. For employers, this can mean designing supportive policies around flexible hours, or additional training to address knowledge gaps. For employees she advised relying on and maintaining your network, and taking up offers of ‘keep in touch’ opportunities with your colleagues whilst on maternity.
Cheryl focused on the significant growth and change that occurs from becoming a parent and encouraged attendees to bring their full self to work and be proud of how they have changed as a person as a result of parenthood. She emphasised that both employers and employees should be capitalising on the benefits of this personal growth. Cheryl also reiterated the importance of keeping in touch with your network whilst on a career break and to remember the ripple effect – pass back to others what people have done for you.
Noha described how overcoming bias follows a pyramid model, starting from government policy, employer code of conduct, and for individuals, in sharing our different ideas, cultures and backgrounds. She emphasised the importance of knowing your own value, and encouraging yourself and encouraging others by accepting new challenges and responsibilities.
Cheryl noted that everyone has blind spots and encouraged attendees to challenge themselves. In doing so you could realise that you are part of the issue. Don’t, for example, go into a job interview with the mindset that your career break is a negative as this just perpetuates bias. Be proud of who you are and what you have experienced to get there and your prospective employer will see the value that you have to offer.
To get into contact with Cheryl;
www.CherylThompsonCoaching.com – Cheryl@cherylthompsoncoaching.com – 07854188744
For more information on Bruin’s event programme and diversity initiatives please contact Kirstin Duffy