As my fifth year celebrating International Women’s Day as the CEO of global technology and telecom recruitment company Lorien, and my second year celebrating it as the CEO of the Impellam Group’s North American portfolio of specialist staffing businesses, I’m reflecting on what it’s taken to get here. Female leaders aren’t simply created – they’re the product of hard work, support, and opportunity. Here’s where I found mine.
It is frightening sometimes to think that I joined this business before some of our employees were born. When I joined Impellam in 1998, recruitment wasn’t really recognized as a “career” choice, so I assumed it was a short-term option to pay off my student debts. But I was wrong, the business and the sector have changed significantly in that time. We’ve adapted and evolved in line with the needs of our customers and that has presented lots of opportunities for me along the way. Coming through the ranks, I performed almost every operational role in the business, which gave me a fantastic grounding. I have constantly been challenged, inspired, and driven by the people around me – who have also ensured we had fun along the way! My opportunities at Impellam as a female have been varied and numerous – from helping to shape client solutions, to leading high impact initiatives, and most recently realizing a career ambition to take on a global role.
For the last two consecutive years, I’ve been honored to feature on SIA’s Global Power 150 – Women in Staffing List. That’s a long way to come from ‘falling into’ recruitment, and I’m grateful for every opportunity I’ve been given to develop new skills and expertise and build a career in a sector that I love.
Over the past 12 months, I have watched some of the women (and men of course!) in this business juggle an unbelievable amount of pressure, adding full time childcare and full-time teaching assistant to their already hectic schedules. Covid-19 was a catalyst for the worldwide adoption of remote working as a viable option and I believe that this shift will open up more opportunities for females to move up the career ladder, allowing them the flexibility that they need to manage the demands of both their careers and a family. Covid-19 gifted us a 12 month “trial period” which levelled the remote working playing field for everyone and I think that we have all been surprised by the positive results that we have seen.
The real privilege of having a long tenure and visible presence in our industry is that it enables me to be the kind of “influencer” that makes me truly proud, someone who can create great opportunities for great people and play my part in ensuring they are recognized for their success.
As I wrote in my 2019 blog on women in staffing, “we have a shared responsibility (to recognize female leaders). As an industry and as business leaders we need to shine more of a spotlight on the breadth of talent within our sector; we need to use our voices to create the platform to showcase their achievements. Not just to give them “a warm fuzzy feeling”, but to ensure that they too can be seen as role models by the next generation”.
My commitment for the long term is to continue to cultivate an environment which is welcoming and inclusive to people from all walks of life. I want everyone to have access to the same opportunities that I did. With the right balance of encouragement, support, recognition, and hard work, we can all thrive.
I have always been lucky to work with supportive leaders who gave me a push at the right time. They encouraged me to move beyond my comfort zone to fulfil my potential. My advice is to not let self-doubt or perfectionism stop you from moving forward. You won’t always have all the answers or the experience to deal with every situation that life throws at you. But in the right organization, with the right people, you should always feel encouraged to be bold and to step outside of your comfort zone, safe in the knowledge that your team are willing you to succeed and are there to support you. At Impellam, we are a huge support network for each other.
My advice to women, in staffing or otherwise, is therefore: "Don’t hold back." If you have an idea or an opinion, then make sure that you voice it. We can’t expect to be heard or listened to if we don’t speak up. My job is to create an environment and culture where everyone is encouraged and empowered to voice their opinion and contribute to our thinking. No one person can have all the answers and having multiple opinions from diverse groups can unlock new ideas and ways of approaching a problem.
Working for a company where I can count many of our employees as friends, and some of them almost as family, is amazing. Watching people develop and grow in their careers, while also raising families and dealing with whatever life generally throws at them, is a constant source of inspiration for me.
Driving inclusion and diversity is an ongoing process, but in recent years I’ve seen a lot of progress, and I’m confident that today there are more businesses working collectively to turn the dial on diversity than there has ever been before. And that’s a great position to be in.
I am proud to work for a business that is so authentic about ED&I. When I moved to the US just a little over a year ago, one of my first initiatives was to replicate the internal diversity and inclusion group we’d set up in the UK. We launched “Unity”, our North American ED&I group last summer, which was founded and chaired by our employees who are passionate about driving ED&I within our organization. I have been inspired and impressed by the contribution that they have made to the business in such a short space of time.
I’m also excited to be leading our growth across the US. Over the next two years, we are planning to double our workforce, which means excellent growth opportunities for our existing employees, but also exciting opportunities for new people to come and join us. If you are currently looking for a new opportunity in staffing, and want to join a business that will really invest in your development, that will support your individuality and will give you the opportunity to fulfil your potential, please take a look at our vacancies. I’d love to have you on board for our journey.