International Women’s Day: An Interview with Three Cliftons Women

Cliftons International Womens_Day Blog

International Women’s Day 2020 falls on Sunday 8 March 2020, and this year the focus is on gender equality with a theme of “#EachforEqual”.

We’ve put the spotlight on three female leaders at Cliftons to find out why the fight for equality continues to be so important as we commence a new decade.

International Womens Day Tori Glover

Victoria Glover, Cliftons Group Operations Manager ANZ

“Know your worth and don’t back down. Work hard, be fearless and showcase your leadership abilities through action not words.”

What does #EachforEqual mean to you?

Each for Equal speaks to me as a reminder that behaviour ignored is behaviour condoned. As a society we all need to play our part in supporting rights to balanced and fair opportunity based on ability, not gender or any other defining characteristic. If we fail to call out and soundly reject gender inequality in the workplace, we undeniably become part of the problem. We as women must collectively and actively campaign for workplace recognition, respect as leaders and equal pay.

As a woman in a senior management role, what is your advice to other women pursuing leadership positions?

Know your worth and don’t back down. Work hard, be fearless and showcase your leadership abilities through action, not words. Never be afraid to take ownership of a mistake and learn from it. Don’t allow yourself to be talked over… and never be a bully.

Is there a female figure that inspires you?

Every woman who actively supports and recognises the growth of other women inspires me. I am fortunate to be surrounded by clever, business savvy and generally fabulous women both in my personal and professional sphere. On my wish list of inspirational women that I’d love to meet, Cindy Gallop is at the top. She is brilliant at debunking common myths pertaining to women in powerful leadership roles and is adept at pushing the boundaries traditionally established by men. Her authenticity and genuine lack of ego inspires pure awe.  

International Womens Day Vanessa Green

Vanessa Green, Cliftons Acting CEO

“It is our responsibility to live and walk the talk every day… Only through ongoing organisation-wide discussion and support for diversity can real change be made.”

The theme this year is #EachForEqual. Why is gender equality such an important issue in business?

Not only is gender balance essential for an inclusive and engaged culture, companies with a balance of men and women in leadership roles are proven to be more productive, achieving greater market value and revenues. My own experience over the last 20 years and numerous studies by the likes of McKinsey, Harvard and KPMG have shown time and again that women’s participation in the workforce has positive impacts on organisational culture and company results. For businesses wanting to attract the best talent, failing to support and encourage participation of 50% of the workforce is short sighted and organisationally limiting.

Being Cliftons acting CEO, how do you make sure that inclusion and diversity are considered when making decisions?

By talking about it, all the time! As managers and individuals, it is our responsibility to live and walk the talk every day. It is not enough to put a policy together and file it under ‘I’ for Inclusion or ‘G’ for Gender Diversity. It’s a start, but only through ongoing organisation-wide discussion and support for diversity can real change be made.

I am proud that Cliftons have made significant improvements in our gender diversity over recent years, with 51% of our workforce female and many women in senior leadership roles.

While there is still a way to go, the good news is diversity and inclusion are no longer considered optional ‘nice to haves’. They have moved to good business practice and the best way forward.

At the start of your career, did you always aspire to an executive role? Can you share with us a little about your journey and any role models that inspired you?

I am not sure I always wanted to be a business executive, but I always wanted to oversee my own destiny and work with high performing teams to accomplish worthwhile goals. I am lucky to have worked for small, medium and large organisations across Asia Pacific, in a diverse range of industries. Working with some truly wonderful men and women over the years has taught me a lot.

Along with the importance of integrity and trust, perhaps the most useful thing I have learnt is to stop listen and question. Always be open to ideas. A fixed mindset or belief that ‘your way is always the best way’ is self-limiting. We can achieve so much more with an open mind and open ears.

International Womens Day Athena

Athena Chintis, Cliftons Head of People & Culture

“When I had my first-born, there was no paid parental leave. Flexibility wasn’t a real (or well-supported) option, so I was working full-time and copped a lot of late fees for day care! “

As a people and culture manager, how does gender diversity affect employee engagement?

There’s a strong business case for diversity and inclusion across on all fronts – and not just gender diversity. Researchers have found that there’s a relationship between employees’ sense of belonging and employee engagement. Gender diverse teams are more innovative and collaborative, especially in environments where people feel comfortable having a say and input into decision-making.

At Cliftons, we’re conscious of ensuring a diverse work group as it makes our business stronger. We also have clients and delegates coming into our venues from all backgrounds and it’s important that our workforce reflects that too.

How do you go about ensuring gender equality is considered in all aspects of hiring and workplace policies?

All leaders within the company need to support gender diversity. It’s not just a HR thing! The key for me is to partner with the executives and other managers to ensure they know how we’re tracking as an organisation and what we need to do.  

Last year, for example, we identified that our sales division wasn’t as gender diverse as it could be. Since then, we’ve consciously focused on this in our hiring as we’ve grown the team. As a result, we’ve doubled the number of female BDMs. This doesn’t mean we set out to hire women exclusively, but our sales leaders were conscious of ensuring more balance. Late last year we also trained our managers in unconscious bias and interviewing skills, which will be continuing this year

In your career, have things changed much? What kind of developments have you seen for women in the workplace and how have they impacted you personally?

Absolutely they have. In terms of me personally, when I had my first-born, there was no paid parental leave. Flexibility wasn’t a real (or well-supported) option, so I was working full-time and copped a lot of late fees for day care! Fortunately, the conversations are opening due to societal and legislative changes around these issues.  Organisations are realising they need to be flexible to secure and retain the best mix of top talent.

Female leadership qualities are important: authenticity, collaboration, empathy and relationship building are all skills women tend to excel in. Yet fifteen years ago, women were more likely to feel they had to wear a mask and lead like a man to fit in. Thankfully, progressive organisations have realised the benefits that female leadership and thought diversity brings.

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