Why organisations need to invest in the individual, not the stereotype

Article by Camilla Winlo, Head of Data Privacy at Gemserv

HR leader, confident female business leaderI spent the first 15 years of my career in marketing – working in teams that were either majority or completely female, besides our team lead, that was typically male.

As I’ve developed in my career, I’ve experienced the impact of ‘gendered’ roles and being the only woman in a leadership position, and at times, the only woman in a meeting room.

Making the move from marketing – albeit working with organisations going through regulatory change – into data protection, required someone to take a chance on me. Thankfully, I’d been given the opportunity to demonstrate my value as a consultant before being offered the role of head of data protection. Many assume that in changing roles you need to return to an entry level position but I don’t believe this to be the case – you just need to be given the opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and skills – and this starts with breaking down biases.

Breaking the mould

We need to take a very deliberate approach to breaking down biases. Whatever the organisation or sector, it is the responsibility of a manager and a leader to demonstrate they’re really thinking about bringing out the marvelousness of their team, irrespective of gender, and that they have a clear understanding of what success looks like to each individual on their own terms.

Often, those looking to move into senior leadership roles are expected to have experience across all key business functions. However most career journeys tend to lean into one area, leaving people siloed with specialist knowledge as opposed to a broader understanding of the business. That can make it harder for people from certain business functions to make the step to the top – and often it’s people in the more traditionally female functions that find it hardest to branch out from their area. To broaden the team’s horizons, people in existing leadership roles need to think consciously about job design and career development for the generations below them and make sure they get the wide experience they will need to enter into senior leadership.

Advocacy is key to wide scale change, and if we don’t support one another – as well as actively seeking to expose our unconscious influences – bias will continue to exist both in the workplace and in society as a whole.

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