An interview with the Deputy Chief Executive Operations and General Counsel, Serious Fraud Office, and ally for women
How long have you been in the public sector? How and where did you start?
I have been in the public sector since 2013 when I left my role as a private practice litigation lawyer to start at the Financial Markets Authority as Manager of Enforcement around the time of the fallout from the Global Financial Crisis. Moving to the public sector was the best (career) decision I’ve made and I haven’t looked back.
You have been identified by your colleagues as an ally for women in the workplace. What does being an ally look like for you?
For me, being an ally involves listening to workplace issues when they are raised by women, taking them seriously and doing what you can to help achieve change. It’s not easy or popular to call things out and a little bit of support can make a big difference. That support also means that you take it upon yourself to use your position to call out behavior or draw attention to things when they need to be addressed.
Would you consider yourself as having always been an ally for women? Or has this developed over time?
It’s certainly been (and still is) a work in progress. I think as you move through your career you tend to go from focusing predominantly on personal achievements and taking certain things for granted, to looking more at the sort of place you want to work. You also realise that as you progress you can influence what that looks like.
Now that I’m in a senior role, I feel I’m in a position to help build a work environment that values all contributions, encourages diversity of thought and provides real opportunities for women to progress. A workplace that can do that is going to have happy and motivated people who feel valued which is ultimately better for everybody.
60% of the public sector is made up of women, however we are not represented in the upper tiers. What are your thoughts or ideas around changing this?
I think that people need to see women leading in senior roles so that they know what is possible and it becomes the norm rather than something exceptional. I also think we that we need to recognise and value the different forms and styles of leadership that are effective rather than just perpetuating stereotypes about what strong leadership traditionally looks like and asking women to conform to that. It simply can’t be right that the only way for women to succeed in senior roles is for them to work around the clock and to make unreasonable sacrifices that men don’t have to make.
What is your advice regarding encouraging men to be champions/allies for women in the public sector?
I think men (particularly those in senior positions) need to appreciate that they can use their position to support women advancing within the public sector. That support can range from courageous conversations with colleagues when something needs calling out, through to just simply being there to listen and provide feedback.
While things have undoubtedly improved for women in the workforce over the last few years, we shouldn’t fool ourselves that this has just happened through the passage of time and that progress is inevitable. That sort of complacency could lead to the gap widening again. The advances that have taken place have been the result of sheer hard work and determination over several decades and that work hasn’t finished yet.