Romanie Thomas

Romanie is a non-white (BAME), female entrepreneur who successfully raised over $2.1m in VC and angel funding for her start up.

She’s a leading authority on the topics of AI in recruitment, diversity and inclusion, flexible working, learning and development. As an energetic and confident speaker, her expertise has featured in The Daily Mail Andrew Pierce Show, The Dominic Monkhouse Podcast, The Telegraph, Management Today, and BITE (Creative Brief).

Romanie is an experienced headhunter who has spent the last ten years helping companies find outstanding senior staff. During that time, she saw very little progress on gender diversity at the leadership level. Today, less than 10% of business leaders are women. Romanie’s vision is to grow this percentage to 50% by 2027.

She believes that companies can increase the numbers of women in leadership positions and improve diversity in the workplace by implementing flexible working practices and adopting technological innovation. Romanie is incredibly passionate about equality in the workplace with her personal belief being that the adoption of innovative technology and forward-thinking will enable us to move towards a more equal society.

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

After spending almost 10 years as an Executive Head-hunter, I decided to found Juggle Jobs – a platform for companies to find and manage experienced professionals, on a flexible basis. I believe that if we make flexibility the de facto and easy way for companies to hire senior professionals, the gender split between men and women at business leadership levels will look much healthier for the next generation.

I am also a Board Advisor at Circl – a fantastic company connecting amazing young professionals from underprivileged backgrounds to leaders in corporates. They gain coaching skills, valuable mentors, everything that those from more privileged backgrounds receive, therefore levelling the playing field and making sure that great people have opportunities, regardless of where they come from.

I am also soon to be a new mum and just figuring out how I’m going to manage it all! An exciting and scary time.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not really. I had an inkling from an early age that I was strong on the commercial and sales side, and I value meritocracy, so recruitment was a natural fit. I didn’t have a set plan as such, but I did know in the back of my mind that I would setup my own business, and so the decisions I took contributed to that ultimate goal (however unconscious those decisions were at the time).

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

I would describe myself as privileged, in that I never wanted for anything and parents sacrificed a great deal to ensure we were accomplished. They were loving and deeply interested in what we were doing too, so even though our circumstances weren’t grand, we were immensely lucky. However when I joined the workforce and recruitment in particular, it was clear I stood out, coming from a State school vs a public or private school. I was also the only non-white (or one of 1-2) in reasonably large companies.

My accent has subtly changed from Staffordshire to more of a well-spoken Londoner. I believe this has happened so that I fit in. I shaped a narrative around being an ethnic minority, but now that I look back, I can see that some of this wasn’t entirely healthy as it was all about fitting in rather than being proud of a different identity. I’d really like things to be different for the next generation.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Getting the business through Covid-19 and into a very strong position now. It was a test of nerves, strategy, vision, and work ethic. I’m immensely proud of getting us through that time and excited about the business now as it’s clear the flexible angle is the right one!

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

A very strong sense of “why”. This journey is extremely hard at times and frankly, there are more lucrative careers (in the short term) with far less pain. But I’m passionate about the gender mission, equality really means something to me and that fuels me up during the bad times.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Don’t focus too much on what you’re not good at, really hone in on your strengths.

Mindset is everything. Pay as much attention to your mental health and strength (this isn’t about escaping from things; it’s about developing resilience).

Be a team player but don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. It’s easy to be a selfish person and a doormat – it’s much harder to balance your interests with the company or team – but it’s a vital skill to learn.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Yes, and I dislike how much we focus on things at an individual level rather than discussion the obvious systemic ones: maternity leave, discrimination, the gender pay gap.

The solutions I believe are rooted in big changes, but they’re quite simple:

  1. Flexible working – normalise this entirely
  2. Rewards – change exactly what behaviour we reward in organisations so that we move from recognising people who shout the loudest, to those that are delivering the most
  3. Transparency – from the gender pay gap and maternity leave, there’s no shame in admitting we don’t have it right, but how we can achieve any progress if companies are still hiding things?

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

Focus on the systemic changes rather than encouraging women to modify their behaviour. That narrative needs kicking to the curb once and for all.

There are currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Change the C-suite across the board so it’s 50:50. The visibility of great women leading the organisations, coupled with the diversity of thought that will enter into the decision making (with AI for example) would be transformational.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I love the Radical Candor podcast. Live Better Feel More is also great for mindset and has a broad range of wellness experts on there – essential when you’re thinking about furthering your career. I recently read Matthew McConoughey’s “Greenlights” which I know looks like an odd choice but honestly, try it, it’s great for making you realise the world is your oyster.