International Women's Day 2022 : An interview with Naomi Smith, Group Head of Compliance & Facilities at Spencer Ogden
This year's International Women's Day theme is #BreakTheBias. What does this slogan mean to you in your work life?
For me breaking the bias is allowing and assuming a woman can and should succeed because she is valued as an employee and member of the business, not because in promoting or retaining her, you tick a diversity box.
What progress have you seen on gender equality in your life and work?
In some areas I think progress has been positive and to be applauded but sadly in too many areas, change is slow. It’s tiresome that we still have to deal with some of the same issues continually. I'm lucky that I work in an environment where I am appreciated for the work I do. The business allows me to have a positive work/life balance, which means I can continue to progress whilst considering whether I might one day have a family. I know I will continue to be supported in my career alongside this, which from a personal perspective is valuable to me.
Sadly, from a non-work perspective when you look at what still goes on in the world around us, I and many other women still experience unpleasant interactions, which can often be abusive from men, for no reason other than being a woman. Whilst I feel incredibly lucky that I didn't live in a time where women were limited in their rights due to their gender, I hope within my lifetime women will no longer fear for their safety because of their gender.
Which women have supported or inspired you in your career path?
I'm very lucky to have grown up in an environment where the women around me had successful careers. Success doesn't always have to be about climbing the career ladder or making the most money but seeing the women closest to me able to choose to do any job they wish and do it well was inspiring.
How do we encourage more women to join recruitment?
Although I work in recruitment and have done for many years, I appreciate it is different as a member of the support team, where hiring and retaining women hasn't been a struggle. I can only speak from my personal experience within a recruitment environment that has meant I have thrived and wanted to stay working in the industry. I think the crucial thing has been accepting people from diverse backgrounds, appreciating whatever it is that they bring to the business and celebrating different ideas and experiences.
We need to not see encouraging women to join or stay in recruitment as a one size fits all, as what I want or need from my career is hugely different from what another woman wants or needs. I think fostering a culture where a woman can succeed, regardless of her expectations or needs from her career, is vital to not just encouraging women to join but also encouraging them to stay. For some people, seeing females in more senior roles can help foster that environment, for others knowing that male leaders are an ally for their growth and development is sufficient. In addition, some women see flexibility and autonomy with how or where they work (me being one of them) as crucial to wanting to stay working within an organisation. For others working within a set framework is preferable. The ability to adapt to the needs of our people as far as reasonably practicable is vital to retaining or encouraging them to join.
Why do we need more women in leadership?
Having women at all levels of a business helps improve profitability and performance because they have different perspectives, ideas, and ways of working.
How important is it to have male allies who may support women's progression?
This is vital. It's so important for men within all levels to see and understand the value of working with and in amongst a gender diverse workforce as a positive. I've been very lucky to have worked for a male leader who supports my progression for the last few years and without this, I wouldn't have grown to where I am today.
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