Corporate culture and preferences still hinders women in leadership
- Published: Monday, 05 January 2015 09:00
- Written by Lindsey Rix
Why do you think are there so few women in leadership positions in the UK?
"I have been inspired by a number of leaders that I have worked with in my career, particularly those who took chances on me in the early stages of my career."
It is great to see an increase in the numbers of women in leadership positions in the UK, but there is clearly still some way to go. I don't know why the numbers are lower than should be but I suspect it is a combination of corporate culture and preferences. Historically, I do believe that corporate culture has been more one-dimensional and thus in general people operating in a way of similar behaviours / characteristics and recruiting in their image. I do think that is changing and more businesses are welcoming diversity in its broadest sense and how that can enrich a business. In terms of preferences, I have seen evidence where some women do not want to put themselves forward into an environment that is described above and as that changes, I think we will see more women in leadership roles.
Has reaching your level of seniority been more difficult, in your opinion, for you than your male counterparts?
No, I don't believe so, and I have never felt it hinder my progression. The only time that I have felt challenges was when I had my family. I have had 2 children, and leaving to go on maternity leave and returning to work subsequently does present different challenges, but in a supportive working environment, I still do not believe it has made my progression more difficult – it does require supportive businesses and leaders though.
Who or what inspired you to pursue a leadership position?
I have been inspired by a number of leaders that I have worked with in my career, particularly those who took chances on me in the early stages of my career and were incredibly helpful in coaching me through it. I also hugely enjoy working with people and watching them learn, develop and succeed, so leadership was a natural direction for me to take. I also enjoy diversity in a role, different challenges and therefore leading broader businesses also fulfils me and motivates me.
"I enjoy diversity in a role, different challenges and therefore leading broader businesses also fulfils me and motivates me."
What are Aviva doing to encourage more women to pursue leadership job roles?
I have only been with Aviva for 3.5 months, but have been encouraged by the approach they take in a number of places. There are a number of women on the group executive, some newly promoted and there is a very clear message about diversity from the top. Secondly, there are networks established within the business to support and promote the development of women through the organisation.
In any university or business, how will a more equal balance of female and male leaders enhance the working environment and progress?
I strongly believe that a variety of skills, backgrounds and approaches makes for better balanced businesses, more progressive businesses and those that are richer in debate, risk management and diversification. It can also support a more engaged workforce who have different role models to aspire to.
What advice would you give women who would like to take a similar path to you?
I would encourage people to believe in themselves more, and to not try to be something they are not. To really understand the value that their natural skills, ideas and approach can bring to a business and to hold true to that. I also believe that building broad networks, and having strong sponsors / coaches is important as you progress your career.
Lindsey Rix is Chief Operating Officer at Aviva UK GI.