Guest blog: #BalanceforBetter

Curium | 08 Mar 2019 | News | General News

To celebrate International Women’s Day and its theme of #BalanceforBetter, Executive Chair and guest blogger Tracy Westall considers how much balance she’s had throughout her career and how greater balance can be achieved.

As a woman who has spent the past 30 years working in the tech sector, I often get asked to share my experiences, lessons and general advice to those wanting to tread the same path.

When I do, I talk a lot about the value of role models. But, on reflection, I’m not sure I always genuinely appreciated the support network, the often-serendipitous meetings that led to opportunities, or some of the fantastic people I worked with.

When I look back, I often just took things for granted. I was too busy being me to stop and think about what (and who) else helped me to achieve being me.

Some of that stemmed from my need to prove myself. Being the only woman in the room wasn’t unusual. After all, tech is still a sector where only 1 in 10 leadership roles are held by women, and this is 2019. Imagine what it was like in 1989!

The truth is that I now know I didn’t think about gender balance. I just got on with it. I was one of the lucky ones – I made it and most of my effort went into making sure it stayed that way!

Thankfully, my attitude has changed, and I know that not everyone has the same opportunities I had. Now I spend a huge amount of my time talking about equality, challenging and poking this issue as hard as I can.

I’m a big supporter of this year’s theme for International Women’s Day: #BalanceforBetter.

Achieving gender balance in the board room, in politics, in the media, in wealth, in opportunity – basically everywhere, is essential to ensuring economies and communities thrive.

One of my current roles is as Executive Chair of Curium Solutions. Curium’s inclusive leadership report includes some startling statistics; reasons why companies and their investors should take the issue of balance seriously.

Companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity are 21% more likely to outperform on profitability. But, despite an ever-increasing pool of women with substantial board experience, the number of women in FTSE 350 CEO roles is just 12, down from 15 this time last year. We are quite a distance from balanced boardrooms.

For many organisations, progress (such as it is!) towards a more diverse and inclusive workplace has focused on characteristics like gender, race and disability. For Curium, this doesn’t go far enough. Leaders need to understand and empower diversity of personality, thinking and preference if they are to be truly inclusive.

The report – ‘Empowering inclusive leaders for a diverse world’, shares the results of a survey into leadership behaviours. Based on TetraMap® preferences – Earth, Air, Water and Fire – Curium’s survey looks at the attributes most typically found among leaders.

The results show that people with a high Earth preference – who are typically task and outcome focused – are more likely to be in senior roles. More people-focused individuals – those with a high Water preference – are less commonly found in leadership roles.

Is it surprising that someone more focused on goals, decisions and delivery will attain a leadership role? Not for me, as my highest preference by far is Earth! However, I also know that if there is too much Earth in a leader or in a team, you may not always take people with you. In that case, you all end up frustrated.

I wish I’d come across TetraMap sooner in my career. It is such a simple tool that very quickly helps you to understand both yourself and others better. As Curium’s Head of Performance Solutions Anne Clews says, “It turns irritations into insights”, enabling you to improve relationships, resolve conflict and collaborate more easily.

Using TetraMap is one way to bring #BalanceforBetter to your teams and organisations. If you’d like to find out more and see what your preferences are, then get in touch.

Balance is equally important outside the board room. Speaking personally, I think that greater balance between my career, my personal priorities and myself would have made the younger me a more inclusive leader; maybe even a happier leader.

International Women’s Day gives us a chance to stop and reflect on where we might achieve greater balance, from home to the board room. It is also a chance to talk and show appreciation for all those who support women as they strive for that balance, and remind ourselves we still have a long way to go.

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