empowering junior women in the workplace featured

How to empower junior women within your business

empowering junior women in the workplace

Veronique Barbosa is the Co-Founder and COO of Flux, a digital receipts and rewards platform that lives inside your banking app and is currently partnered with the likes of Just Eat, KFC, itsu, and EAT.

For women in business, it’s no secret that getting ahead can be a challenge (to say the least).

Just one in five of Britain’s six million businesses is run by a woman.

Only 32 per cent of directorships on FTSE 100 boards are held by women.

And across the top ranking companies globally, only 18 per cent have a female leader – a figure that’s barely shifted in the last few years.

When it comes to women working in the technology sector, specifically, it’s the same story – or rather depressingly, a little worse. Currently, just 17 per cent of people working in tech are women.

Clearly, there’s a lot of work to be done, and it’s my firm belief that if we are to tackle and finally overcome the issue of gender equality in the workplace, empowering junior women is a huge part of the puzzle.

In my career to date – both as COO and co-founder of Flux, and prior to that as Head of Partnerships at Revolut – I’ve been lucky enough to have hired and managed many talented and inspirational women. Here are three things I’ve learnt along the way about how best to empower junior women within your business.

Recognising the barriers

It might sound counterintuitive, but the first step to overcoming the barriers for women in business, is to recognise those barriers. It’s the job of managers and senior leaders within business to acknowledge the challenges facing women, and seek to understand them: where do these barriers stem from? How are they perpetrated? How much of the problem is in deep-rooted bias (a sub-conscious preference shown towards male candidates at interview, for instance), and how much is down to practical systems in place within your business (such as flexible working policies or maternity and paternity leave)?

Once you can answer some of these questions – even if only in part – you are one step closer to being able to break down the biases and address the problems.

Champion change

Secondly, communication plays a vital role. When it comes to business leaders and business founders, there is plenty of data to back up the suggestion that women hold themselves back. In a recent All-Party Parliamentary Group survey, female respondents cited social expectations and gender stereotypes as some of the reasons preventing them from applying for a new position or a promotion.

Meanwhile, data from the Young Women’s Trust found that 54% of women aged 18-30 said they lack self-confidence when it comes to applying for jobs, compared to 39% of men.

Empowering junior women in business starts with getting them through the door in the first place, and that means championing the opportunities that are there. It starts in the education system, but doesn’t stop there; young women need to be made aware firstly that the opportunities are available to them, and secondly equipped with the confidence to apply for them.

Mentoring

Finally, I urge all business leaders to consider introducing mentoring initiatives within their business. These needn’t be directed solely at female employees – after all, we can all benefit from some guidance in our career – but what I would say is that these initiatives should be tailored, and accessible to all. For young women who are starting out in their career, there is huge value in having visible female role models, who have trodden a similar path and can share their own experiences of overcoming certain challenges.

Of course, depending on the size of a business, frequent and readily available mentoring isn’t always a possibility, so I also point my team in the direction of the many useful resources available in literature and online. Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In is a book I often turn to, and I’m also a regular listener to the Girl Boss podcast.

I am very thankful for the growing community of women who are committed to lifting each other up. Whatever stage of career we’re at, we can all benefit from seeing and sharing relatable, real-life success stories. We might have a way to go, but we’re making unprecedented progress: let’s celebrate that.


Diverse international and interracial group of standing women, women empowering women

How women can empower each other to thrive in the tech world

Diverse international and interracial group of standing women, women empowering women

Article provided by Ann-Kathrin Sauthoff-Bloch, Partner and Managing Director at Infosys Consulting

The game-changing #MeToo movement showed how women in positions of power can raise one another, inspire, and influence, and be a positive role model for others.

This final article in the series will explore how women can empower themselves and each other to not only survive but thrive in the tech industry.

8 TOP TIPS TO EMPOWER EACH OTHER

Create Support Groups

It can be especially lonely at the top with female executives often being the lone voice at the decision-making table and in male-dominated power lunches and dinners. This is not surprising with women forming only 16% of the workforce in the tech industry with just 5% in senior leadership roles.

It is crucial for women to form peer-to-peer and cross-level support groups with like-minded individuals to alleviate the feeling of isolation in the workplace. It can also be a powerful platform to freely exchange ideas and voice your thoughts and experiences on sensitive topics like depression, stress, anxiety, gender discrimination, and sexual harassment. Support groups play a huge role in enabling women to escape the negative loop of feeling they are alone

Share Your Story (with the good, bad, and ugly bits)

Women can feel more empowered if they have awareness of and access to positive role models. Taking inspiration from success stories of other female leaders, entrepreneurs and achievers can inject that extra dose of motivation to propel women ahead in their careers.

Female leaders should leverage the support groups within their organisation to share their journeys and not only talk about the strengths and attributes that helped them succeed but also their vulnerabilities, failures, and the obstacles they overcame to seize opportunities and realise their goals. The more women speak openly about their trials and tribulations the more confidence they can inspire in others to not let mistakes and setbacks dent their resolve to succeed.

Mentor and Sponsor

Senior female leaders in the firm should proactively offer themselves as mentors or executive sponsors for female staff who show aspirations and potential to reach higher positions. This is all the more important in the post-Covid world which has seen a major exodus of women from the workforce.

Mentors can provide their sage advice and leverage their experience to provide direction and guidance. Executive sponsors can use their personal credibility, reputation, and networks to level the playing field and offer connections and introductions that women would not otherwise have access to. They can also help women shift their thinking and consider alternate career paths, positions, projects, and opportunities. Executive sponsors can play a big role in increasing the pipeline of women for leadership roles.

Give Potential a Chance

Men usually get picked for opportunities based on their potential, whereas women tend to be evaluated on their prior experience. Women in positions of influence should endeavour to delegate or suggest promising female staff for projects where they feel they may be a great fit, irrespective of their experience. Women should lift each other up and give each other the chance to prove themselves.

Amplify Each Other

Women should break the stereotyped notion of ‘female rivalry’ and amplify each other’s voices in meetings, back each other when they agree with their views, respectfully disagree, and give one another space to speak openly. Lack of recognition remains one of the top reasons why people leave an organisation. Hence, whenever the opportunity arises, celebrate the strengths and accomplishments of female peers.

Discuss the Taboo Subject of ‘Pay’

Pay gap is a burning issue in gender inequality and the reason it remains grossly unresolved is because most companies aren’t transparent about pay structures and consider discussing it inappropriate. Equal pay for equal work is still an unrealised vision and many women don’t feel confident negotiating pay checks. Speaking openly about pay and sharing successful salary negotiation tips with each other, can empower other women to stand up for what they believe they deserve.

Normalise Parenting

There is a widely prevalent and misplaced notion that working moms are less committed to their work which makes women uncomfortable to discuss their family with work colleagues and managers for the fear of being perceived as undedicated. If we want more women to join the workforce and empower them to reach senior roles, we must normalise parenting and work-life balance. The more senior female leaders are open about their own parental responsibilities and talk about it freely in the workplace, the more it becomes the norm. There are moments where we all have to respond to family needs, and if we see leaders doing that, it makes it easier for everyone to do that and help shatter the assumption that you have to choose between your career and family to get ahead.

Champion the Cause

Last but not the least, get involved in the diversity and inclusion initiatives at your workplace. Don’t wait for your employer to start a diversity cell. If none exist, take the lead, and get your voices heard. Only when we all put our collective will behind a cause, proactively drive changes, and #chosetochallenge gender stereotypes, can real progress happen.

Ann-Kathrin Sauthoff-BlochAbout the author

Ann-Kathrin champions Infosys Consulting’s growth strategy across Europe. She has an impressive career history, having spent 14 years at Accenture, before moving to IBM in 2013, where she was the global lead account partner for Deutsche Telekom, one of IBM’s largest accounts in Germany, leading over 250 consultants onsite and offshore.