Lloyd’s provided a stunning backdrop for our full-to-capacity Warrior Women at War leadership event held in partnership with ABF The Soldiers’ Charity on Wednesday 25 September.
The theme was to compare and contrast Army leadership with that in the corporate world and to discover what, if anything, each could learn from the other.
The Keynote, delivered by Major General Susan Ridge, set the tone for the evening and outlined her experience, as a lawyer, within the Army. “Whilst businesses had shareholders,” she said “the Army needed to satisfy the demands of multiple stakeholders.”
She also highlighted that in the Army it was always about “us” and not about “me”, that the ethos was one that welcomed challenge, where leadership required judgement and humility, knowing when to give people their head and when to give help, supervision and training.
In response to a question about whether the corporate world could learn from the Army’s values (Courage, Discipline, Respect for Others, Integrity, Loyalty and Selfless Commitment) Panellist, Commandant Philippa Lorimer MBE, First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (PRVC) reflected that one of the big differences between her experience in the Army and her work in private sector defence sales was the lack of “honest” communication. She said that it had taken her time to adjustment to a world where what you said didn’t necessarily happen and you knew it wasn’t going to happen.
Annette Andrews, HR Director, Lloyd’s spoke of her experience having moved from country to country as a child and how that helped her when she worked overseas and managed teams in other countries. It had enabled her to quickly adjust to new situations, to “read” people and understand other cultures.
Claire Bowler, Partner, DWF who has three young children, aged 2, 4, and 6 spoke about how flexible and agile working had helped her to progress within her career. “Within a 40-45 year career, it’s OK to take your foot off the pedal now and again,” she advised. She also encouraged women to be strategic about how they used their time when managing a high level career and family and to be selective about when to be present at work.
During the Q&A session that followed, there was much discussion about flexible working – its importance and how to ask for it (base on facts, on outputs rather than emotion) and the need for mentors, sponsors and role models.
Gwen Rhys, CEO Women in the City reminded everyone that sometimes they needed to be their own role model, citing Condoleezza Rice, former US Secretary of State who said:
Search for role models you can look up to and people who take an interest in your career. But here’s an important warning: you don’t have to have mentors or role models who look like you. Had I been waiting for a Black, female, Soviet specialist mentor, I would still be waiting. Most of my mentors have been old white men, because they were the ones who dominated my field.
Gwen added that many women felt there weren’t role models in their business that they could look up to an emulate and suggested that rather than trying to find “the one”, women should make a composite role model of the “best” traits, characteristics, behaviours of several women and men.
The post-event networking was lively, with lots of ideas and suggestions being exchanged. One idea was to set up Mentoring Groups, rather like Tutorial Groups, to encourage male mentors, who may be reluctant to mentor women 1-2-1, to participate.
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