Companies need to effect real change in the way they attract and support senior women if they are to plug the gender pay gap. The power of the 2to3days ‘hood’ means firms can reverse the exodus and change public perception. The deadline for gender pay gap reporting is upon us and there have already been some nasty surprises from companies that have revealed their figures. From Channel 4 and ITN to Goldman Sachs, HSBC and beyond, companies have been forced to reveal large gender pay gaps, often caused by gender imbalances at senior levels. Those employing more than 250 people have until 4th April to publish their gender pay gap figures. “Businesses are facing the consequences of past inflexible cultures, which forced women out of the workforce when they had children,” says 2to3days founder Juliet Turnbull. “They made it almost impossible for women to stay on and progress their careers.” The resulting exodus of senior women and gender pay gulf means companies have a huge issue to tackle. The business world needs to hire women who left their industries back into senior positions. The way to do this is by offering genuine flexibility – the kind of flexibility that truly allows people to manage their lives and careers without sacrificing one for the other. Those whose gender pay gap audit results are looking less than stellar need to review their approach and start offering the flexibility that will attract talented senior women to the organisation. There are so many reasons to do this aside from the legislative push – diverse teams make better decisions, for example. In the past these arguments may have met boardroom disinterest or resistance. Now gender pay gap legislation is focusing minds on the perils of ignoring the issue. There is talk in political circles of future fines for firms that fail to publish their data or tackle their gender gaps. So, if your audit shows you have a gap to close, now is the time to do something about it. This means changing the way you recruit and reward women. “By offering genuine flexibility at the top, businesses send a very clear and positive message that life and work can be integrated and will be fully supported,” says Juliet. “This message will be received by their female intake, from graduates upwards.” Anything less than genuine flexibility, fair pay and transparency will not plug the gap. Even then, it’s going to take time to raise levels of senior women. Once a company has a poor reputation for gender equality that can be hard to shift. It’s time to make changes and shout about those changes. At 2to3days we offer the solution to the problem of finding and recruiting senior women. We have 27,000 women registered with us looking for flexible roles and we are being talked about from the boardroom to the school gate. Mothers champion mothers and share our jobs between themselves, so use the power of the 2to3days ‘hood’ to plug the gender pay gap and change public perception of your business. We are already working with firms such as Nationwide, Grant Thornton, Arcadis and Santander to move the pendulum on their female hiring approach. Join the 2to3days 'hood' (our community) and work with us to create sustainable change so the gender pay gap issue is no longer an issue.
Rowena is Head of Architecture Operations & Development at Nationwide. Here she shares her thoughts on the value of mentoring, and her top five tips for women considering STEM careers. Rowena joined the Society 31 years ago as part of the graduate scheme, working in Retail and Direct Sales, before joining IT as a retail expert in 1994. More recently, she set up the Programme Architecture team at Nationwide, also known as Solution Architecture. What makes a good female mentor? At University, Rowena studied Geography, which she describes as the ideal blend of logic and creativity - much like her current role which combines logical thinking and innovation with a love of people leadership. Mentoring allows Rowena to ask the questions others, including the colleague’s line manager, may find hard. In doing so, she believes it can help force the individual to get to the real route of an issue. “I’ve been told I have an ability to see patterns in what they’ve done before, which can help them forge a new perspective. It’s about combining the logical with emotional.” Since joining Nationwide, Rowena has mentored many women, a total of 10 in the last few years. This is usually as they consider the transition from a senior role to a leadership role. Mentees are either 'matched' to her via recommendations from others across the business, or via HR if they’re believed to be a good match: “I enjoy mentoring because I’m fascinated by people, their journey and their aspirations, and also because I think it’s important to give back - lots of people were instrumental in helping me to learn about myself and the organisation.” “I worked in Rowena’s team for 18 months and observed first-hand how she successfully led in a male-dominated area. I knew I could learn a lot from her, so I approached her to be my mentor.” Mei, Senior Enterprise Architect “Rowena has a fantastic ability to listen, ask astute questions and provide thought-provoking insight, whilst at the same time leaving you feeling the accountability and ownership for your own development. She is first-rate at coaching and has helped to draw things out of me that I hadn’t considered previously.” Claire, Head of Sales and Service Simplification Her background also allows her to see things others couldn’t in this space: “Having been on the journey myself I can help individuals make the jump,” She explains. “There can sometimes be a tendency for females to think they’re not quite good enough, or we’ll have a lack of self-belief. Sometimes the women I mentor will even ‘catastrophise’ their minor failures.” “I found Rowena’s help invaluable when I returned from Mat Leave after my 2nd baby. I only took a 4-month maternity leave, and the number of comments I had about only choosing to take “5 minutes off” made me feel like I couldn’t tell people that I was actually finding balancing the lack of sleep from a baby who fed 3 times a night with work pretty tough.” Lara, Head of Treasury Modelling Considering a STEM career? Here's Rowena’s advice: 1. Be more open-minded and curious. Behind the big banners, e.g: ‘financial services’, there’s actually an enormous variety of creative and logical IT careers that aren’t ‘geeky’. 2. If you’re unsure what to do after school or University, follow your passion. Looking back I wouldn’t change my degree to do a typically ‘STEM’ degree. You can still secure a STEM career even without being certain you’ll end up there. Geography was good as it was a broad mix of analysis, creativity and logic.” 3. Good qualifications can open up a world of opportunities. Hiring managers shouldn’t only look for typical STEM careers. What’s important is the high-end logic that can be transferred into a role. 4. Take time to understand what it is you’re looking for in a career. I now know what the key attributes a role needs to offer to be right for me; I need to feel part of a team to share collaborative energy. There have been points during my career where I felt ‘I must be rubbish’ but that was before I learned that I wasn’t going to be good at every role, and some may not be a great fit for me. 5. Take some risks. Sometimes it can be healthy to step into a job where you don’t know it all, as it could lead to some of your biggest learnings: don’t be afraid of failure. “Since I have been seeing Rowena, I have really changed my approach. Rather than plan to do something in 5 years’ time, Rowena has helped me to understand that there is nothing stopping me from achieving those goals today – except my own limiting beliefs.” Lisa, Operational Performance Lead
Grant Thornton Select is a new way for ACA, ACCA or CIMA qualified accountants to work on stimulating projects on an interim or project basis whilst benefitting from the training, development and support of one of the UK’s top accountancy firms. With the help of 2to3days, the firm has recently launched the scheme to attract a large team of working mothers and others wishing to work on short to medium-term client projects whilst leaving time for family, school holidays or other commitments between assignments. The idea is the brainchild of Grant Thornton Director Emma Davies who leads this new network of interim accountants from the organisation’s Sheffield office. 2to3days’ Julie Kangisser caught up with her to find out more. How did the idea for Grant Thornton Select arise? Over the past six years, I’ve led a Special Projects team, sending our Grant Thornton team members into fascinating interim or project roles with clients. I’ve done these sorts of immersive stints in the past myself for a number of companies including General Electric and a fast-growth business looking to restructure its in-house finance team. These briefs always arise out of change, transition or growth. In today’s rapidly changing business world we are increasingly asked to provide interim support. But Grant Thornton does not have enough people in the Special Projects core team to proactively seek out this work and that’s where Grant Thornton Select comes in. I’m proud that we’re the first professional services firm in the UK to develop this innovative and flexible model. I’m passionate that mothers should have the same opportunities to do stimulating work as everybody else. As a working mother myself, I understand that on-off working holds huge appeal for many ambitious mothers looking to have both a fast-paced career and plenty of quality time with their children. The Grant Thornton Select scheme has been widely supported throughout the firm. Grant Thornton’s culture is set from the top by our inspirational CEO Sacha Romanovitch, herself a working mother of two, who is pioneering an inclusive and diverse workplace culture in a sector that is often regarded as behind the curve in this regard. This is reflected in our inclusion in the National Association for Female Executives’ Top Companies for Executive Women for four years running and in Working Mother’s 100 Best Companies for eleven consecutive years. The market is responding really positively to the lead we are taking. Tell us your own tips for flexible working in a fast-paced professional services firm? I fit work around my life and not the other way round. Many mothers think they have to pretend that they don’t have a family but I say “be yourself and bring your whole self to work”. I have to be very organised and also accept that I can’t do everything exactly as I did before having my son - but there are usually great alternatives. Gone are the days of networking drinks in the evening, but now I meet people for breakfast or over lunch and get the same if not better outcomes. I used to struggle to say no to anything but now I find that if you set reasonable boundaries people respect you for it. I’m also better at delegating than I used to be! Are there limits to the types of flexibility that can be accommodated? Meeting our clients’ business needs is paramount so it’s a case of what works well for them. Although any arrangement could be possible, I think that most of our clients would be comfortable with contractors working 4-day weeks and taking time off during school holidays as part of their annual leave plans. Short to medium term projects can allow our Select team members to earn good money for part of the year and then take several months off to pursue other priorities or take extended summer holidays, for example. Working school hours only is likely to be unfeasible for many clients, although many are flexible with start and finish times. Although I usually work more out of Grant Thornton’s offices rather than client-side on a day-to-day basis, a red line that I won’t cross is being able to drop off my son at school every morning and collect him from after-school club at 5.45. This pattern fits largely into a standard working day and, if needed, I am happy to pick up a few additional tasks in the evening. What makes a brilliant contract finance professional? Someone who thrives on variety and challenge and who is a self-starter. Whether acting alone or within a small Grant Thornton Select team, our interims need to rapidly understand their client’s business and operating environment and how to get to an end goal quickly. Of course, they are doing this with all the support of Grant Thornton behind them. One of our newest Select members was struggling to fit a full-time Finance Director role around her family life but she is delighted to work intensely for several months and then take time off. Other members have taken career breaks to raise children and this is an ideal way for them to return to work and have the best of both worlds. What are the best things about hiring working mothers? It may surprise you, but one of the top assets working mothers bring is their good life perspective and their ability to recognise that there is more to life than work. I know from my own set-up that we need to be super-organised which means we naturally prioritise well and don’t waste time on unnecessary or inefficient work. What support will I receive as a member of Grant Thornton Select? We have done lots of research into the challenges of being a totally independent contractor and the top concerns were loneliness, the difficulty of finding work and the lack of career development support. That’s why community is at the core of Grant Thornton Select. Our interims and core staff team are encouraged to connect and share with each other, much as you do in the 2to3days community. We’re working on an internal social network to facilitate this knowledge transfer. Our interims will have access, at no cost, to a vast array of our CPD courses and soft-skills training as well as weekly check-ins with a colleague at Grant Thornton whilst out on assignment. We’re also organising monthly social events such as drinks or lunches to eliminate the isolation factor of contracting. The support we offer to all our staff, including the Select team, fits into our wider company purpose of shaping a vibrant economy by connecting people so that people and places can thrive. Have you met any resistance to the idea from clients? Quite the reverse. So long as they are getting the right person, clients don’t get hung up on whether that person has other facets to their life outside of work. It actually makes them more ‘normal’ and appealing as a colleague. They also know that they are getting more experienced people than they might otherwise attract directly. To embark on interim work, most of the Grant Thornton Select team have amassed years of experience and a degree of financial security. In addition, clients know that all Grant Thornton Select staff have been through a rigorous application process and benefit from ongoing support and quality control from Grant Thornton.