Institute of Managers & Leaders 2018 – International Womens Day – Debate

CEO Emma Hendry

What does diversity and inclusion look like to you?

Diversity to me should not only be viewed through the lens of visible and non-visible characteristics, but also through diversity in cognitive behaviour. That is, how one sees, understands and interprets the world. For diversity to flourish, a more active concept of inclusion must be adopted to enable acceptance, respect and collaboration between groups with differing backgrounds, characteristics and experiences. Therefore, allowing for an innovative and progressive environment to be cultivated, based on merit rather than stereotypical bias that promotes homogeneous thought.

What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership in 2018?

In my experience, the most significant barrier for women in leadership 2018 has increasingly taken a more prejudicial form of unspoken bias as opposed to the overt discriminatory behaviour we have seen in years past – albeit not always. Historically, male dominated environments have created mutually reinforcing culture of prejudice towards outsiders, including women. To breakdown these social norms, we must disrupt these practices by highlighting these issues, educating society and driving strong leaders into leadership – regardless of gender – to champion new norms based upon more positive group attributes, such as success, leadership and innovation.

In your own career, have you had to overcome gender related roadblocks? If so, how did you achieve this?

Everyday. Being a leader in a male dominated industry can cut both ways. On the one hand, it enables me a platform and opportunity to demonstrate that woman can be strong and effective leaders in stereotypically masculine industries. However, on the other hand dealing with prejudicial subcultures within the industry can mean that a barrier can exist and requires additionally effort to be exerted to be viewed at the same level/ competency as my male industry counter-parts. In order to overcome this, I continually strive to demonstrate equality by example and work as hard as I can to break down even one individuals biased notions to enable the next woman that comes through to take it one step further.

What is your number one piece of career advice?

Educate yourself in every way possible. Knowledge and dexterity of thought is power.

What motivates you to continue advocating for women entrepreneurs/women in business every day? 

My motivation stems from three perspectives. First, self-preservation. We innately are driven to better our position and as a woman in business I identify with this plight and therefore are driven to advocate for advancement. Secondly, economic benefits. Recent studies have been highlighting the benefits of inclusive and diverse environments, in which innovation, productivity and performance increase as a result. Therefore, if we want advancement in our standard of living and for future generations to come, we must promote participation and opportunity. Finally, social responsibility. I seek to improve the environment in which I work for the next generation and for others around me today. With a collective and targeted voice, we are able to achieve great things.

What is your most memorable career achievement? 

Becoming CEO, whilst completing my Executive MBA.

What is something that most people do not know about you (something you don’t mind telling a room full of people)? 

Self-doubt is a normal feeling – I experience it daily. However, it is how you deal with it that determines whether it negatively or positively impacts you. This is something that I only learnt whilst studying my MBA and taking over as CEO concurrently. I had increased scrutiny and judgement being placed upon me and the worst critic I found was myself.


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