Christian Edelmann

HeForShe: Christian Edelmann | Managing Director, Europe, Oliver Wyman; Executive Sponsor of Oliver Wyman’s Women’s Network; & Co-Founder of Men4Change

Christian Edelmann

Christian Edelmann is Managing Director, Europe at Oliver Wyman.

He is also the Executive Sponsor of Oliver Wyman’s Women’s Network and a co-founder of Men4Change, a network to create and support male allies and advocates for gender equality in the workplace. To find out more about Men4Change and get involved, contact [email protected]

Why I became an advocate for gender diversity

My wife first introduced me to the challenges women can face in the workplace when they are in the minority. She opened my eyes to the lack of gender diversity in most businesses.

I work in the financial services sector, where this is a particular problem. At Oliver Wyman, we’ve been examining the representation of women in senior roles in financial services since 2014. Back then, we found that on average 13 percent of executive committees were women, a number which grew to 20 percent in 2019.

While this is change in the right direction, the pace is too slow: at this rate, it would be 2035 before we achieve gender balance on executive committees at financial services companies. This is, quite simply, not good enough.

Men must support gender equality in the workplace

I’ve been serving as the executive sponsor of Oliver Wyman’s women’s network, WOW, for nearly four years. As a team we are clear about what needs to be done next to accelerate gender equalisation, and it’s not just more activities for women. It’s greater engagement from men.

This makes sense because men still make up most of the world’s biggest companies, especially at the executive level. We must get involved if the whole business is to benefit from inclusion and diversity.

In management consulting, we are addressing some of the toughest problems businesses face. From digitalisation to Brexit to climate change, solutions come from having creative teams. This creativity comes from having a diversity of ideas and perspectives, and an environment of inclusion where people feel able to share their ideas.

Engaging other men in conversations on gender equality

I’ve always felt very welcomed to conversations around gender equality at Oliver Wyman, in part because I am not afraid to raise the subject and ask questions. When I don’t understand something my network of female colleagues have always been willing to invest their time to educate me, for example by sharing their experiences.

Our women’s network has always been open to all genders, but to increase the engagement of men they’ve helped establish Men4Change. This is a forum where men can start to better understand the challenges facing women, get involved with the debate, have their questions answered, and find out tangible steps they can take to make a difference.

When engaging with men, we make it clear that we are not assigning blame. The purpose is to create empowered champions of inclusion, not to reprimand men for the problem. This approach is helping Men4Change expand its reach beyond those who are already interested in diversity. However, encouraging participation from disinterested or passive individuals remains a huge challenge.

The role I play in career development

For most of my time at Oliver Wyman, I have mentored equal numbers of men and women. Now, I actively mentor two female colleagues and am lightly involved advising another half dozen.

I’ve read in the media that some women are less likely than men to put themselves forward for jobs that are very senior or out of their comfort zones. I hope that my efforts in mentoring individuals and sponsoring our women’s network have helped create an environment where everyone feels heard, valued, and able to take up new challenges.

Additionally, we’re looking at supporting career development through sponsorship. Sponsors not only ensure that women are pushing themselves forward, but also use their seniority to actively help them advance.

The future of gender equality in the workplace

Looking ahead, we’re seeing gender-based targets within businesses become more granular: they are no longer looking at senior leadership alone, but increasingly every step of the career ladder. Nurturing the talent pipeline in this way will accelerate the journey towards equality, but, as men are most often at the top of businesses, they need to lead it.

Beyond counting the number of women at each level of the business, executive teams are starting to want to better measure firm culture, as this strongly determines women will stay within the firm in the long term. I expect we’ll see more efforts to track in real-time behaviours and attitudes and identify the drivers behind them. Armed with this information, companies can re-shape their workplace cultures to be more welcoming and inclusive of everyone.


Joud Hadaie

In Her Shoes: Joud Hadaie | Associate and Product Owner, Oliver Wyman Digital

Joud Hadaie

Joud is the product owner for a technical solution used by retailers across Europe.

After moving her university studies from Syria to Lebanon, she now lives and works in London, managing a global team of software developers and designers.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

Having graduated with a degree in Engineering, I wanted to gain business and consultancy skills, so I joined Oliver Wyman in 2016. After a year, I combined my technical and consulting skills by moving to Oliver Wyman Digital, where I create innovative, robust, scalable software solutions for our clients.

How does a typical workday for you begin and end?

My teams practice agile development, so we like to start the day with a video conference with everyone to discuss progress, priorities, blockers and achievements.

Although the meetings follow the same format every day, no two days are ever the same due to the nature of my job and the project.

I aspire to creating a good work-life balance for myself, so by the end of the day I always aim to be offline from work emails and spending quality time with my husband and hobbies.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I always wanted a career that involved both technology and business, but I didn’t know exactly what that would look like. The digital and technology sector is changing so rapidly even now I don’t know what the future holds for me! But so long as I continue to learn, grow, and face new challenges I will be happy with my career.

What do you love about working for Oliver Wyman?

I’m proud to work somewhere with a culture that helps people flourish. The business puts a great degree of trust in those it hires, and myself and my peers had the opportunity to work directly with senior clients from the very beginning of our time here.

I also love working among super-intelligent colleagues who combine amazing critical thinking skills with a practical approach to problem solving. It’s a collaborative environment where we all learn from each other.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you overcome these challenges?

I had never stepped foot in England before joining Oliver Wyman. Coming to London made me face a few cultural differences. I had a different working style to everyone else but benefited from continuous guidance, mentoring, and support from my career advisors to help me find ways to adjust to the new environment while staying true to myself.

Have you benefited from coaching, mentoring, or the sponsorship of others?

I am very lucky to have participated in several mentoring programmes such as MissionINCLUDE and the 30% Club. I’d recommend them both very highly: they helped me take on new challenges and choose courage over comfort.

Do you believe in the power of networking? If so, where do you network?

Networking can help open doors you didn’t even know were there. I network at the conferences I attend, and in smaller, more focussed settings. I’m keen to meet people with similar values and career interests, and of course connect with and learn from people who inspire me.

What advice would you give to those who aspire to a career in tech?

I would definitely say that it is never too late to start a career in tech. You don't have to know coding and programming to have a career in the sector. There are a lot of transferrable skills that you can bring to the table. If you are passionate about a topic then try to be courageous to step into the unknown.

What does the future hold for you?

No-one knows what tomorrow holds, however, I am determined to keep developing myself as a manager and as a person. I want to continue to be inspired by amazing people, especially amazing women. My hope is that one day, having put all my heart and energy in what I do, younger women could look up to me and call me inspiring.

 

 


Deborah O'Neill featured

Inspirational Woman: Deborah O’Neill | Partner and Head of Digital, Europe, Oliver Wyman

 

deborah-oneil-featuredIn her time at global management consultancy Oliver Wyman, Deborah has supported some of the world’s biggest financial institutions and developed a passion around user centricity for business reporting. She is an alumnus of Imperial College, London, and recently co-authored an article for the Harvard Business Review entitled “Using Data to Strengthen Your Connections to Customers.” Deborah is actively engaged in mentoring the next generation of tech experts and is using her role as a senior team member in Oliver Wyman Digital to help support the female talent pipeline. You can follow her on Twitter: @DeborahLabsOW

You’re very open that you specialised in technology relatively recently. What advice do you give to other people and women in particular – considering a career change into digital and technology sectors?

The first thing is to just believe in yourself and that you can do it. Seriously. It’s that simple. It’s a common anecdote that from a list of ten criteria on a job description, men consider meeting five of them as a reason to apply, whereas similarly skilled women view “just” five out of ten as not being enough to support their application.

In my case, I’d found myself working more and more on data, systems, and tech issues, which I really enjoyed. I decided that would be where I would focus my career, incorporating my other strengths of managing projects and clients and being a fast learner and a team player. The business – Oliver Wyman – recognized my potential and supported my move to our technology arm – Oliver Wyman Digital – because of those skills. So, my advice is to go for the jobs you want and, when you get them (which you will), consider moving away from lists of requirements in the job descriptions you write.

My second recommendation is to ask for help and feedback and proactively seek out a mentor. Many people are great at giving constructive advice on how you can develop but wouldn't think to share their experience unless invited to. If your company doesn’t run a mentoring program, you can encourage them to join the 30% Club who provide mentoring for women in business.

Don’t forget that mentors come in all shapes and sizes. They don’t have to be in the same industry as you, or be female, or even be more senior than you. Sometimes the best advice I received was from peers or junior members of my team who have a different perspective on how I could be more effective in my role. Giving colleagues permission to share their constructive feedback and suggestions builds trust within a team and benefits the business overall.

According to Madeleine Albright, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” What should senior women be doing more of?

Possibly the best advice I was ever given was “lead from the centre, not the top.” Senior women shouldn’t be afraid of acknowledging the gaps in their experience or skill sets and using this insight to surround themselves with people who fill these gaps and elevate the whole team. This approach is far more effective than leading from the top as a means of control. I’ve seen both styles in practice – and I know which one I’m constantly striving for.

Where possible, I think senior women should offer themselves as mentors for other women and advocate for them. It’s also worth remembering that just because they made it to a leadership position, it may not be as easy for others – for a wide range of circumstances – and senior women could be using their privilege of seniority to champion a fairer playing field.

In recruitment situations, I would ask all interviewers to understand the motivations of each candidate. For example, are they looking for a particular development opportunity, and do you believe the role will provide the appropriate challenge? People who are appropriately challenged and motivated will flourish, which is what you need if you want to create a high-performing team.

Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?

I’m incredibly lucky with the company I work for and the way they supported me moving from financial services consulting into Oliver Wyman Digital. They’ve taken a conscious decision to enable and encourage employees to work in ways that work best for them. Whether this is reducing hours to start a family or a business, they’ve recognized that the best talent may not want to work a five-day week with standard office hours and they’ve adapted accordingly. This has given me a lot of reassurance about my future and that I don’t have to trade off career success against other personal ambitions.

This means that in ten years’ time, I can see myself doing anything I want to do – whatever that may be.

If you had to tweet your top three career tips, what would they be?

In your #career, don’t hesitate to ask for feedback, & for help if needed. It's a strength not a weakness.

Remember: other people DO want you to succeed. #mentoring #career

Go for it! Bring your uniqueness to the challenges you face. #diversity