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International Powerwomen: Choose to Challenge

15 March 2021

April French Furnell

This March, Citywealth is celebrating Women’s History Month. Championing women across one day is not enough, so we’re continuing the narrative we started nine years ago when launching the Powerwomen Awards. We proudly presented our Powerwomen Award winners for 2021, hosted a virtual networking event for 100 women across the UK, North America and Europe, and this week are taking part in the International Women’s Day theme of #ChooseToChallenge.

If you would like to have your voice heard - whether to tell us what your company does to help you; about the people who support you or just your daily challenges and how you make them work or what you need to see changed, then send your comments in an email called #ChooseToChallenge and your photo to deputy editor April French Furnell at afrenchfurnell@citywealthmag.com

 

Let’s talk up about home challenges - April French Furnell, Deputy Editor, Citywealth

We identify a #powerwoman as someone who is maximising their potential, serving as a positive role model to others, and nurturing the next generation of talent. In our editorial we purposely focus on their professional achievements to demonstrate their careers and impact on the bottom line in the wealth management industry. But, this year, amidst the challenges of the pandemic it would be remiss to ignore the seismic change to homelife.

A recent statistic said the pandemic may put gender equality back by 25 years, according to global data released by UN Women. The reason? The need for household chores and child or elderly care has multiplied over COVID with the additional time spent at home, and women are shouldering the lion’s share of this burden. On top of this, there have been anecdotal tales of women so under stress that they are opting for furlough to cope with homeschool or resigning from their jobs as the struggle was too ovewhelming.

For my #choosetochallenge, I challenge the notion that home life should stay at home. It’s time we talk more openly of the challenges of work/life balance and not just pay lip service to it. It’s time to re-educate clients to the pressures their demands bring to businesses and the impact on staff. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve shared more of our homes and lives with our colleagues and clients than ever before. From children (or pets) interrupting Zoom or Teams board meetings, to non-stop delivery men that ring during client calls, to revealing the inside of your home ‘office’ and your real personality over video calls.

So, as things return to normal, let’s remember to be more human in the workplace. This year, 2021, when we celebrate our Powerwomen, yes, we should share their successes and loudly call out their accomplishments, but we should also recognise the circumstances in which they have achieved those successes and talk loudly about it to open up a dialogue.

 

Lessons learned from a female entrepreneur - Karen Jones, CEO, Citywealth and founder of the Powerwomen Awards

Karen shares the lessons she has learned from having run a business for 15 years. “Outsource everything you can; take time to train and develop others even if its frustrating because unless they can do your tasks, you will never be free of them. 70% is the good enough handover expectation - perfection makes everyone agitated – it is important to let people have 30% leeway to do things their own way and improve. Find mentors and help wherever you can; whether male, female and any age group, particularly reverse mentoring. Make time every day to sit with friends, family and neighbours: work has a habit of always being there; like a mountain that never gets smaller. Learn the art of negotiation: it will help you with confrontation which often can be easily diverted but takes some skill. Hire more people even if they have nothing to do, they will quickly fill their day. Have hobbies that take you away from work completely. For me it is art history and crypto to refresh my perspective and chill out. Work is a long haul, a marathon not a sprint, so I always make time to enjoy it. Realise that sometimes you will be afraid and people will be mean but you will get through it. Take risks that take you out of your comfort zone or you will not develop.” Who would I challenge? I will be controversial. Other women. Burn out happens for many reasons but one of them is pushing yourself to the max which is exhausting and too many media stories include 'superwomen'. Dial back a bit, even Olympic athletes finish their career in their thirties because they pursue perfection goals. 30% is my magic number. Work to100%, but relax for 30% of it, to think about what you are doing or take a screen call with work friends, that is not transactional. 

 

Celebrate differences – Ingrid Pierce, Walkers

“I celebrate differences, life would be so one dimensional without them.”, says Ingrid. She also heads the Cayman Investment Funds group and has over 20 years’ experience as an investment funds lawyer. She says her greatest achievement to date is mentoring junior lawyers into partners and successful second careers. She is helping to forge a more inclusive world through listening: “Solicit different views from a wide constituency of people and getting different perspectives can really help when I have difficult decisions to make. I actively seek to learn from those who think differently or may hold different beliefs. It is surprising how much I discover from this process. I also try to create space for dialogue which is non-judgmental and, where necessary, off the record. I’ve been told that I’m good at noticing when someone is on the fringes and working to bring them closer to the fore. In my experience, these individuals usually have a great deal to offer, so it would be a shame if they stayed on the outside.”

 

Challenging the status quo – Sue Primmer, Sionic

Sue Primmer, Chief Marketing Officer at Sionic, a global consulting firm. Her greatest achievement is ‘taking Hackney to the Beijing Olympics’. #ChooseToChallenge means three things to her: “Challenging the status quo as an individual. Challenging myself and my own thinking and prejudices. Challenging with others - with colleagues, with the women's equality party, as part of IWD - movements and communities”

 

Remain curious - Frederique Meyer, deputy managing director for Switzerland, IQ-EQ

Freddy describes her greatest professional achievement as “Having been part of building, growing and solidifying a team that had the motivation and strength of character to grow and commit to our business in a globally challenging year.” She has also enjoyed professional success in recently being promoted to deputy managing director for Switzerland in January of this year. For her, #choosetochallenge means remaining curious. She explains: “A desire to truly understand somebody or something cannot be satisfied without a deep sense of curiosity about that person or present circumstances. Having the courage to challenge a status quo is the first step in change. #Choosetochallenge takes me out of my comfort zone because change is discomforting. However, #Choosetochallenge is a choice and an opportunity for which I am grateful because to quote Albert Einstein ‘the mind that opens to a new idea never returns to its original size’ and my mind needs expanding.”

 

Focusing on staff members’ mental health - Donna Shorto, managing director, PraxisIFM

“Setting up the group’s London office from scratch whilst also acquiring a UK-based firm six months later and integrating staff and systems” is one of Donna’s greatest achievements to-date. She’s helping to forge a more inclusive world by focusing on mental health. “I have just completed a mental health first aider course so that I can ensure I spot when staff members are struggling with their mental health in the workplace. I have also joined our HR and ESG steering committees within the Group to ensure we have not only a people strategy but diversity and inclusion within the office and we arranged an IWD panel discussion on gender bias”.

 

Having a growth mindset - Nina Johnston, managing director, Equiom

For Nina Johnston, managing director for Equiom on the Isle of Man, #choosetochallenge resonates on many levels, not least in terms of gender stereotypes but also in relation to personal wellbeing and having a growth mindset. She reflects, “The world has fortunately come on a long way in my 30 year career and I am grateful that I live in an era where female leaders are widely recognised for their successes but likewise have also experienced times of feeling judged, for example for being a working mum or being the one in the room brave enough to share a controversial opinion. I strongly believe in professionalism and mutual respect regardless of circumstances, rank and experience and often encourage members of our team to challenge their own preconceived ideas in relation to their abilities and to be the best version of themselves that they can be. Whatever you strive to achieve in life, know that you are capable, you are worthy and you deserve to be where you are. Don't be stereotyped, let your voice be heard and make a difference - you have earned it”. Her proudest piece of work is helping to shape end of service reform measures in UAE, in particular ring fencing benefits for employees in the DIFC, and ultimately securing appointment as Master Trustee of the DIFC Employee Workplace Savings (DEWS) plan. DEWS now has over $130million of contributions.

 

Putting wellbeing higher up the agenda - Gillian Bishop, consultant and founder, Family Law in Partnership

Gillian founded Family Law in Partnership in 1995 and at the time it was only the third niche family law practice in London. Its still one of her proudest achievements to-date, having been the first firm in the country to have in-house counsellors and mediators as an integral part of the services offered to clients. She chooses to challenge the legal profession’s regulators to require those branches of the profession dealing with the complicated lives of individuals to have supervision. She believes this would not only reduce burn out but at the same time enable lawyers to better service their clients.

 

Choosing to create a better society – Samantha Woodham, Co-Founder of The Divorce Surgery

Samantha is a family law barrister who along with her peer Harry Gates saw an opportunity to make divorce a more positive experience for separating couples and their families. The Divorce Surgery was the result and Samantha says, “to see that vision become a reality has been the most rewarding thing I’ve done professionally”. For her, #choosetochallenge means questioning all our assumptions. She explains: “Just because something has 'always been done that way' does not mean it should continue. In fact, it is probably ripe for change. We need to challenge the way we approach business and relationships, from our attitudes to flexible working, parenthood, career progression and wellbeing. Choosing to challenge means choosing to evolve and create a better society.”

 

Questioning stereotypes - Claudia Suter, Partner, Homburger

Achievement to Claudia’s come in the form of helping clients to succeed. “it’s an awesome feeling every time I, and we as a team, have succeeded in helping a client resolve a matter or advance and they feel entirely supported and taken care of”. Claudia says she has found that leading by example and self-reflection are the most powerful means of questioning and regularly overcoming her own sub-conscious stereotypes. As a relatively young female partner in the private client world, she has learnt that she needs to make others question or overcome their own stereotypes too.

 

Businesses are more successful with diversity at their core- Louise Hartley, Managing Director, UHNW Banker Team Leader, Citi Private Bank

Louise co-founded the EMEA Women’s network within the Private Bank and is passionate about equality, diversity, progress and equal access to opportunities. Being promoted to Managing Director is not only one of her proudest achievements but it has also enabled her to be even more involved in the bank’s commitment to diversity and talent. She challenges stereotypes when and where she sees them, recognizing that they are particularly damaging for children who “need to be shown that all options are available if you work hard!” She reminds us all: “This is also not a 'nice to have', research has categorically shown that businesses are more successful with diversity at its core.”

 

Questioning the ‘old boys club’ - Sarah Brehaut, Partner, Walkers

Sarah has me it her goal to call out gender discrimination and bias, and this includes condescending comments from opposing counsel and those seeking to discredit or call into question a female lawyer’s commitment to their role. She’s actively working with women’s groups to redress the balance of providing women with more networking opportunities including more diverse activities that appeal to a wider audience, regardless of gender. Her greatest professional achievement to date is being elected Batonnier of the Guernsey Bar in October 2018.

 

Don’t accept the status quo - Sara Schroter, General Counsel, Meritus Trust Company Limited

Sara achieved the Chartered Director designation from the Institute of Directors in 2019, and was one of only 200 female Chartered Directors in the world, and the first female and youngest person in Bermuda to receive the designation. “I’m proud to be able to do my part to walk a path which I hope many others will join me on”, she says. She challenges her own personal biases and those of her organisation. “Choose to Challenge means being deliberate in your thoughts and actions. Not accepting the status quo. Reconsidering why things are the way they are at work, at home and in society. Setting goals and working hard to achieve them. Celebrating those who inspire me and choosing to lift up others not for what it does for me or how it makes me feel, but because it is the right thing to do. Most of all, it means a personal commitment to having a positive impact on the world.”

 

Becoming an Employer of Choice - Caroline Prow, managing director, Equiom

Caroline became the Managing Director of Equiom’s Guernsey office in January 2019 and says it was her proudest professional achievement. She is helping to forge a more inclusive world through becoming an Employer of Choice offering flexible working and unlimited holidays.

 

Supporting an inclusive culture through a pandemic – Jane Parry, Head of Marketing and Communications, Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management

When Jane joined Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management five years ago she set about creating a coherent brand strategy that the organisation could rally behind, creating an inclusive and supportive culture. The business has more than doubled in size since then, and Jane says it’s one of her proudest achievements. This work was truly put to the test at the start of the pandemic when their people were worried about coping technically, physically and mentally. Jane worked with Olympic athletes to develop a #wecandothis ten-week internal support programme sharing content rotating between a focus on being physically active and mental wellbeing.

 

Building a firm on meritocracy - Alison Ozanne, partner, Walkers

Alison’s career started in London in 1989 when there were few women partners in the City and many had made the choice between career and family. “Things have still not improved anywhere near as much as I would have hoped and there is still a long way to go”, she said. “However, having entered the fray in the male dominated sphere of commercial litigation and building my own law firm which was built on genuine meritocracy, plus balancing that with family life I hope I have created an adaptable environment where younger woman can thrive.”

 

Equanimity and flexibility define the truest inclusivity - Emily Kapoor, partner, Katz Partners

“The journey to help create a specialist firm of exceptional lawyers, the majority of whom are female, dedicated to high net worth and complex cases has been a personal privilege, and my greatest professional achievement to date”, says Emily. She is forging a more inclusive world through demonstrating to others that equanimity and flexibility define the truest inclusivity. “We do not see hierarchy and policy as a strength of our business but as a limitation on its capacity to develop, thrive and innovate. We encourage the challenge to what was once considered appropriate, fair and proportionate, and see inclusivity as a constantly developing principle not a sound bite in a mission statement”, she said.

 

Think outside of the box - Francesca Boschini, Director Wealth Planning, Deutsche Bank

Francesca says, “to me being and thinking outside the box has always come naturally, so what I always encourage anyone around me to do is to think outside the box, to always be kind and look beyond any real or perceived barriers, to speak up as needed and share your perspectives and thinking, to find allies and partners to bring on-board, across the line, to be an enabler, and to always believe in your dreams.” She says she is lucky enough to have found mentors, colleagues and managers that have enabled her, allowed her work to be recognised and resulted in her achieving milestones including being the recipient of several professional awards. As a result, she believes it is only natural to want to be able to share and give back whenever she can.

 

The power of mentorship - Gemma Willingham, Partner, Baker McKenzie

“I strive to use my influence as a partner of a global law firm to increase gender parity by always considering female counsel, mediators, and experts as candidates when instructing parties to act in trust litigation”, says Gemma. She passionately believes in the power of mentorship to not real targets but also to make meaningful differences to my colleague’s professional and personal lives. “Within our London Disputes practice, I was recently invited to take up a new “People Partner” role because my fellow partners already saw me as working in this capacity informally – apparently, I’m approachable and trustworthy, which I’m delighted to hear! – so I feel honoured to take up the position”, she said. Having returned to work after maternity leave to work four-days a week, including one from home, she is proud to have set an example to others long before such arrangements were widely accepted. “It took some courage and self-belief”, she reflects. She now works closely with team members as part of their reintegration from new parental leave to eradicate bias for generations to come.

 

Breaking down preconceptions and barriers - Claire Machin, Director, Suntera Global

Claire says she strives to challenge stereotypes both in her role as a Group Director at Suntera Global and outside of the office. “I regularly travel to Africa having done so for many years and have been involved in the football charity Jersey 2 Africa 4 Football. This is a cause close to my heart and it demonstrates that football is so much more than just a hobby. It can be an educational tool to offer children the opportunity to learn, play and develop their emotional wellbeing; and we can forge a more inclusive world by breaking down these preconceptions and barriers to offer opportunities to all, regardless of their gender, age or background.” She is particularly proud of having won ‘Trustee of the Year for the Channel Islands and Isle of Man’ at the Citywealth IFC Awards in 2019.

 

Bringing your whole self to work - Sonya Rees, Director, Blick Rothenberg

Sonya has been involved with Blick Rothenberg’s Diversity & Inclusion committee from its inception two and a half years ago. Her involvement is one of her proudest professional achievements so far. She says, “We are trying to to help forge a culture where everyone can bring their whole selves to work. One of our more significant achievements has been to raise awareness across our firm, and within our non-working worlds, on the importance of D&I for everyone. D&I is now (literally) on the agenda for department and firm-wide meetings. I have been particularly interested and involved in reviewing each step of our recruitment process and adapting this to try and reach as diverse a pool of applicants as possible, both at graduate and lateral hire level.” Her work hasn’t stopped though and she acknowledges there is always more to be done. “I look forward to continuing to listen and learn on my D&I journey”.

 

Challenge the standard - Kimberly McKinnon, Director, Gordon, Fournaris & Mammarella

Kimberly recalls as a young attorney often feeling out of place at professional events. “On one occasion, it was assumed that I was the guest of my spouse at an event for which I was the invitee.” As a result, she determined to “challenge the standard rather than comply and try to blend in”. She networked extensively, accepted any positions of leadership when offered, intentionally sat at tables with those of opposite genders and of different generations, set the conversation with topics of interest to her, and brought her babies to out of town conferences and encouraged her peers to do the same.

 

Educate yourself and those around you - Rajah Abusrewil, Group Partner, Guernsey Private Capital and Trusts Practice Group, Walkers

Education is an important tool in achieving gender equality. Rajah says, “It is important to understand the challenges, the drivers and the impact, in order to challenge.” She challenges the status quo and highlights unconscious bias where it might exist by asking: “Why is a situation accepted? Is there unconscious bias in play that may not have ever been considered?” In a recent example she noticed that she was either the only or one of a few women invited to corporate golf days. “I asked each of the organisers why this was the case, and the response was that women didn't want to play. I explained that I knew of many professional women who played and enjoyed the game, and they were surprised but said that if that was the case they could make sure that it was different next year”.

 

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