Can you give us an overview of your professional background?
My specialism is employment law within the financial services sector, so I have always had a very close link to the sector and am very interested in what is going on within it.
A number of the claims I have dealt with professionally have touched on some of the issues currently facing employers within the sector at the moment; typically, discrimination, including sex discrimination, maternity and pregnancy discrimination and other work place challenges around promotion, recognition and reward. The sector has always proved a challenging environment to work in and hasn’t always been the easiest one for women in which to progress. That’s why it has been constructive and helpful to be part of WIBF.
Can you tell us a little bit more about your role on the WIBF Advisory Board?
I’ve been linked with WIBF as a member for many years now including as a corporate member at two of my previous law firms. I’ve enjoyed good relationships with the presidents, so I have benefited from a really close overview of what WIBF are doing.
In my role as Advisory Board member I am effectively acting as an NED (non-executive director) and a sounding board. We support Vivienne and the Executive Board with their aims, for example we took part in the Strategy Day last year and contributed to the discussion around WIBF plans and long-term strategy. I see it as helping to keep a hand on the tiller and typically, given the stage that we are at in our careers, Advisory Board Members tend to have external networks and connections which can benefit WIBF. By way of example, I helped to design and chair a roundtable event for corporate members looking at the challenges around Gender Pay Gap reporting, enlisting the assistance of senior contacts at Capita plc and the Chartered Management Institute to help us present and discuss a range of issues.
What will you be looking for when you judge the candidates?
I haven’t been a judge before for WIBF and I was really excited and honoured to be asked as I am in very esteemed and august company. I am looking forward to it very much.
I will be looking for something that makes the individual’s nomination stand out. I’m looking at what the person is trying to achieve, what they have done within their role and how their actions and achievements have furthered the cause of women in their own workplace.
I’m also looking at the things people do to effect change. There is no magic fix to the situation that we are in terms of wanting to recognise women’s success and ensure that we have a good pipeline of female talent in the sector. However, there are lots of little things we can do, to borrow British Cycling terminology to make “marginal gains” and I am looking for someone who is trying to make progress by changing little things along the way, because the combination of a number of small changes can sometimes add up to something very effective.
Why do you think awards for women are still so important?
Anything that rewards and acknowledges the efforts women are making both in their own role and outside of it is important. This is in fact true for men and women – who doesn’t appreciate getting a shout out for their efforts? However, women tend to be their own worst promoters and can downplay their achievements, so they don’t always get the recognition they deserve.
Thinking about the Champion for Women award, which can be won by either a man or woman, I think it’s really important to recognise and shine the spotlight on what they are doing because we will only see change happening if there is momentum and drive to achieve that change, and the more people involved in those initiatives the better. Giving some prominence and kudos to these awards is also important – we want them to have a recognisable status within the sector that makes them accolades that mean something, that are worth winning.
Do you have any advice for those who are thinking of nominating someone?
Do it! If you are thinking about it, then do it! Women can’t nominate themselves for these awards, so they will only get recognised if someone puts them forward. If you are a manager with diversity objectives, nominating is a great way of showing your commitment to both your team and the wider diversity initiative.
Equally though, mentors, sponsors, coaches or colleagues can all support and nominate someone they think should be recognised.
Have you ever won an award?
(Laughs) No! In the legal industry you don’t tend to get many individual awards, although last year my firm won Boutique Law Firm of the year and I have to say we all very much felt we were part of that award. We get recognised in other ways, in legal directories and in rankings and it does make a difference to your profile and your ability to sell your services. It gives you access to stakeholders and other organisations that you might not otherwise have. That’s why I think these awards, that are properly researched, evaluated and respected, play such an important part in the success of women in the financial services sector.
With your law hat on, do you think there should be any further legal changes to ensure equality and fairness in the workplace?
Something that gets talked about a lot is whether we should have quotas for women, whether it’s on boards or in businesses in general. I like the idea of what they’re trying to achieve and in an ideal world we will achieve the change we want voluntarily but I am realistic enough to know that doesn’t always happen. However, there tends to be a natural aversion to prescriptive regimes such as quotas and so my concern would be that this would negate their positive intention.
I think we will inevitably see more initiatives such as gender pay gap reporting, even though we all know that this is a very crude metric. Whilst it doesn’t give you a lot of information about the granular breakdown in an organisation, it does tell you what you need to know about the balance of men and women in senior roles. It has most certainly thrown a spotlight on pay and the roles that men and women perform within businesses, and has forced a number of organisations to look closely and carefully at themselves. We all know that what gets measured gets done and it is much more likely going forward that what gets reported will get addressed.