Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) recently revealed its annual Global Power 150 - Women in Staffing list, which celebrates the achievements and excellence of female leaders as influencers on the global stage in the staffing and talent solutions industry.
This year we are excited to see four of Lorien’s leaders make the list – Julia Robertson (Group CEO, Impellam), Annelise Smith (Director of MSP and RPO, Lorien), Claire Marsh (CEO, Impellam North America), and Kelly Morton (Portfolio CEO, STEM, Impellam). This is Kelly’s second commendation by SIA, having also been listed in its SIA 100 – Europe list of leaders earlier this year.
To commemorate this occasion, we decided to put the spotlight on Claire, Kelly, and Annie to learn more about their careers and why visibility for women in recruitment is still important.
Q1: Congratulations on being featured in SIA’s list. Why do you think it’s important to recognise the contributions of female leaders?
Kelly - Recognition of success is always important, but this is especially the case when it comes to visibility for less well represented groups. Seeing other females in leadership positions inspires women to achieve their full potential – you can’t be what you can’t see, after all. Visibility of female leadership helps other females to believe they can achieve the same success, and to find reasons why they can, as opposed to reasons why they cannot.
Annie - Within recruitment we are fortunate enough to be part of an industry that has always had a fairly even gender split, with perhaps even a leaning towards females; however, this is not reflected when it comes to leadership roles. For an industry with such significant female representation as a whole, I believe it is essential to address this imbalance at a senior manager level, and one way to do that is to recognize the contribution of female leaders. By celebrating female success, we can encourage and support future female leaders, and demonstrate the many and varied career opportunities recruitment can offer for everyone, regardless of gender.
Claire - Balanced gender representation and equality in the workplace is essential; women bring different perspectives and approaches to business, resulting in a more inclusive workplace and culture and better company performance. The staffing industry has done a much better job, as compared to the Fortune 500, in females achieving C-level status and that is something to be proud of. Recognizing the contributions of the female leaders in our industry increases their visibility as role models, and that visibility plays a key role in encouraging and advancing the next generation of female leaders. The SIA list also acts as a platform to highlight the organizations within our industry who are championing and developing their female leaders. There’s still room for progress, but I’m proud to play a part in driving ED&I in our sector.
Q2: What has been your proudest achievement in your career?
Kelly - I have had many, but what I feel most proud of is seeing people I have managed, coached, and mentored, go on and become great leaders by staying true to themselves, remaining authentic and real, and above all caring about the people around them.
Annie - The last 18 months have presented challenges none of us could have imagined before. But times of adversity often give you the best opportunity to demonstrate what you’re made of. From a Lorien perspective, we have emerged as a stronger business and our teams have demonstrated resilience, agility, innovative thinking, and compassion throughout. Being a part of that and leading a team of such dedicated professionals has to be my proudest achievement.
Claire - Without question, my proudest moment was when I was appointed as the CEO for Lorien UK. I began my career in staffing with Lorien as a junior employee and I was thrilled and humbled when I was entrusted with the leadership of the business that I loved. Lorien supported and defined my career in this sector, providing constant opportunities for growth and development, which ultimately helped to pave my path towards becoming the CEO. In 2019 Impellam afforded me the opportunity to work internationally, leaving the UK to lead our fast-growing business in North America. It was a difficult decision to make, but I am proud of myself for making the leap out of my comfort zone to take on a new challenge and now realize that I should have never had any hesitation. My move created space for the UK team to step up and it has been extremely fulfilling to watch that team take the business from strength to strength. I work with a great team of people on this side of “the pond” and it is exciting to once again join a business at the start of an incredible journey! As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community I am especially proud of the inclusive culture that we built at Lorien, and now as a leader here in North America, and believe I have the opportunity and responsibility to build a business that enables everyone to be the best that they can be.
Q3: What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your career, and what can people learn from this?
Kelly - Leading SRG out of the 2008 recession and then being appointed MD in 2009. I took a leap of faith and restructured the business into delivery and specialist. I think people thought I was mad at the time, but within two years, we had doubled the business. At the time I questioned myself many times but held on to what I believed was the right thing to do…it was a boom or bust situation. I am pleased to say my instincts served me well, otherwise I probably wouldn’t be writing this now!
Annie - Home-schooling four children whilst trying to do my day job! Obviously by no means unique to me, however it really did teach me a lot about myself and my own skills and was also a clear demonstration of the fact that you cannot be all things to all people…and that’s ok!
Claire - I began my career in IT staffing in 1998, a time when the economy was prospering and demand for technology skills was high, particularly in the build-up to Y2K. Then, along came the Dotcom Bubble Burst which was an extremely challenging time for our sector. The next few years taught me the importance of resilience, determination, and the value of building relationships for the long term. This early career challenge put me in good stead for the ensuing financial crisis in 2008, and of course, the recent global pandemic. Progress isn’t always linear and being able to quickly recognize and adapt to the internal and external factors that inevitably come along, and test even the best laid plans, is a great life lesson!
Q4: What can we do to raise the bar for diversity in recruitment?
Kelly - I think the recruitment industry has come a long way, but there is still more that we can all do in raising awareness and being more socially conscious around the decisions we make and the impact we have. We’re in a unique position in recruitment to be able to influence inclusion and diversity from the top of the funnel and creating a bias-free hiring process is something we are speaking to our clients about more and more. We carry a lot of responsibility in recruitment for fair candidate treatment, and I think that makes us more introspective of our own processes and what we can all do better as individuals and businesses. To raise the bar, we need to think actively about whether the environment we’re creating is one in which our people can fulfil their true potential, regardless of background. Diversity isn’t, and shouldn’t be, a tick-box exercise, but something that is part of our DNA and culture.
Annie - I am proud of our industry and the important role recruiters have to play when it comes to improving diversity in the market as a whole. I personally see the phenomenal work that is done on behalf of our customers every day and it inspires me. If anything, I think we all need to sometimes take a step back and ensure that our internal efforts and the practices in our own organizations are reflective of what we advise our clients to adopt as best practice.
Claire - Inclusion is not just about achieving strong diversity slates, but about building a culture that engages, grows, and fosters diversity of thought, ideas, and ways of working. Everyone at Impellam has a responsibility to ensure that ED&I is front and center of everything that they do, but to ensure that we continue to raise the bar Impellam has recently hired its first Global Head of Culture and Fulfillment, Ann Bookout. Our investment in dedicated and expert resources will ensure that ED&I is the golden thread that runs throughout our organization.