To celebrate International Women’s Day, we’re looking at what makes female leaders successful, particularly showcasing some of the extraordinary talent on our own senior management team.
According to Salesforce’s Area Vice President, Damilola Erinle, having women in at least 30% of leadership positions in a company is proven to add 6% to a company’s net profit margin. Despite the value of women’s contribution to the world of business, there is still substantial work to be done for gender equality at work:
- Women make up just 16% of senior executives on the FTSE 350
- The gender gap will only close in 2186 if progress remains at its current rate
- Female staff suffer a shortfall of £47,000 in employer contributions over their working life
As recruitment specialists, it’s obvious to us that gender is irrelevant when it comes to talent. Here are what a few of the most successful women here at Opus have to say about their career journeys and how women succeed in business.
Amy Golding – Group Managing Director, Opus Professional Services Group
An expert in the business side of recruitment, Amy Golding was previously a Senior Strategy Consultant with Deloitte and James Caan’s business adviser before starting up her own company Recruitment Entrepreneur in January 2014.
With in-depth knowledge of the recruitment industry, Amy has recently joined the Opus group as Group Managing Director.
Do you think there are any differences between male and female leadership styles?
I’ve actually never reported to a woman or had a woman as a boss, which in itself is concerning! I do find, though, that leadership styles have more to do with personality type and experience than gender. If I try and segment the various people in our business into ‘management styles’, it’s not at all clear-cut by gender.
There’s also a big difference between leadership and management; a good leader will explain what the plan is and everyone will want to follow it, whereas a good manager will focus on making sure everyone sticks to the plan. People tend to be good at either one or the other in my experience.
What do you think is holding us back as a society from having more women in positions of power?
There are more CEOs named John in the FTSE 100 than there are women. At the more senior level, recruitment tends to be a male dominated industry. Female leaders still aren’t considered the norm.
In my early career this made me think that to get ahead in business, I would have to act more like a man. I was once told in an official review that “if you want to get ahead here, you will have to be less girly”.
A mentor of mine would often explain that to be successful “you have to take all the emotion out of business”. As I’ve grown in confidence in my career, I’ve realised that I don’t agree with that – and that it’s ok for me to not agree. I actually think that my emotional connection to my work and the people I work with is one of my strongest leadership qualities. Being the best version of yourself creates a much more natural and comfortable leadership style, rather than trying to act out some sort of 1980s movie version of a CEO persona!
Alex Meah – HR Manager, Opus Professional Services Group
With a 1st class Honours Degree in Business & HR and a Level 5 Assoc CIPD certification in Human Resources Management, Alex is not only highly qualified but widely experienced across recruitment and HR. A top biller during her engineering recruitment career, Alex now expertly takes care of all Opus’ HR needs.
How does Opus create a supportive environment for women throughout their careers?
It’s the perception of powerful women here that fosters the environment they have succeeded in. At Opus we have so many successful women in senior positions – Catherine McLean (Managing Director of McLean Ross), Charmaine Kenny (Co-Founder and Managing Director of Baltimore Consulting), Katie Dowling (Global Talent Director), to name just a few. Their capacity to thrive in this environment inspires other women to follow them.
In terms of the benefits we have here, a big proportion of staff at Opus use our flexi-working arrangements. Being able to access technology externally through the remote desktop makes it even easier for staff to work from home, too.
If you could do anyone’s job for a day, who would you choose and why?
I’ve always been envious of the role of coaches who train high-performing teams. There’s so much psychology behind what a coach does, as there are so many egos to manage and, with the world watching, there’s pressure to motivate players to deliver their best possible performance.
If I had to pick any team, I’m Welsh so it’d have to be the Welsh rugby team, in spite of their very disappointing recent performance – I’d be having a few words with them!
Astrid Hall – Marketing Manager, Opus Professional Services Group
With a 1st class honours degree in Journalism, Astrid was Opus’ first ever specialist Marketing employee, joining in 2014. Since then, as Marketing Manager, she has built a Marketing team of six from scratch, named Employee of the Year and even been nominated for an industry award.
What has been your proudest accomplishment in your career so far?
Apart from being promoted to Marketing Manager, I would say being awarded Opus’ Non-Sales Employee of the Year 2015 was my biggest achievement, which I won after just over a year of being at Opus.
Normally people who achieved that had been there for much longer – it felt good to be recognised so early on in my career at Opus and at such an early stage.
Do you think there are any differences between male and female leadership styles?
I think people often assume men undertake positions of leadership because their natural qualities boast dominance or aggression, but most female leaders I come across will also possess these ‘masculine’ characteristics.
That being said, I still think women can make great leaders without being dominant or aggressive. It’s how they command the attention of a room; confidence, approachable or engaging. I don’t think a good leader is determined by gender but by having particular personality traits that inspire the people around them.
Charmaine Kenny – Co-Founder & Managing Director, Baltimore Consulting
With 18 years’ sales and recruitment experience, Charmaine now heads up her own public & third sector recruitment business, Baltimore Consulting (part of the Opus Group). Since its establishment in 2013, Baltimore has achieved multiple award nominations under Charmaine’s direction, as well as industry certifications for individual consultants.
How do you think we can overcome the challenges women face in business?
I’m a true believer in knowing your audience and adapting your approach appropriately. In the business world, it’s certainly not one size fits all and we should make it our priority that whoever we’re talking to leaves with an understanding of our personal strengths and qualities, along with how they could benefit by engaging with you.
I also think that self-belief, self-development and resilience are key contributing factors and if you commit to all three, anything is possible. As clichéd as it is, people buy people and if you have the passion, desire and entrepreneurial spirit to want to succeed and 100% believe you have the skills and attributes needed, then your only challenge should ever be convincing your audience.
Who inspires you?
Karren Brady – I think she’s truly inspirational. Karren is an example of a massively successful business woman that has juggled running businesses as well as being a mother and, despite negative press, hasn’t compromised on either. Being a mother myself, I relate to her journey and it’s encouraging to know that anything is possible if you want it badly enough.
Staff want to feel valued and part of something worthwhile and children want to feel loved, so if you have high emotional intelligence and can connect with those that are around you, you will inevitably breed success.
Read Charmaine’s full interview on the Baltimore Consulting website
Lauren Peake – Senior Group Business Development Manager, Opus Professional Services Group
Having joined Opus in 2010, Lauren has seen the business grow into a renowned global company. Now Senior Group Business Development Manager, she has whiteboarded £4.6m worth of business. As an expert in relationship building, she works across multiple brands and international offices for the Opus group.
What’s your background and how did you get where you are today?
I originally joined Opus as a trainee recruitment consultant and absolutely loved working in the small team we had in Bristol – I was something like employee number 11. I quickly progressed to a senior level with the support of some of our directors – Tom Ponting and Nigel Ramana – and, when the opportunity came about, I relocated with Matt Thornton to London to open our new office there.
After working in London as a consultant for a few more years, the first business development vacancy opened following the hire of Business Development Director Sam Jenkinson. Sam approached me about the role because of my relationship building skills and my ability to work on the client side. I really enjoyed building relationships and meeting new clients.
Since then, I have worked hard and increased my profitability year-on-year. My career has grown while the business has grown and naturally I have continued to work my way up achieving aggressive targets each year.
Why aren’t there more women in leadership roles, in your opinion?
Women have clearly shown we are just as capable as men in business. I think fundamentally there are fewer women in power because as women we generally take on more responsibility raising families. I mean this from the perspective that we go through pregnancy, give birth and generally take time off for maternity leave. This shouldn’t mean there are fewer women in power, though. As time has evolved, society has changed its mentality and businesses support women in raising families.
I think there is still a lot more that needs to change in terms of support for women so that they are able to work and raise children. I love the #GirlBoss campaign, inspired by entrepreneur Sophia Amoruso’s 2014 book of the same name. I think it’s great that we celebrate women in leadership roles and women who run their own businesses.
Think you could #BeBoldForChange? Get in touch with our Talent Team to find out if you have the potential to excel in a recruitment career