Recently, I was honoured and excited to be invited to the internal launch of Centrica’s women’s network. Honoured because I was the only external person invited and excited because I wanted to hear Anne Minto, Group Director of Human Resources, speak.
I am always surprised by my own perceptions of successful people. I am sure we are similar and I bet your inner dialogue is like mine and goes something like this ‘they must be different to me, more intelligent, more serious, more committed’ and then, of course, when we listen we discover that that they are just like us and the inspiration is in that lesson. Perhaps, the only difference I have heard and seen 100’s of times is that they are willing to work hard and learn from, not shrink back from mistakes.
Anne has been Group Director of Human Resources at Centrica since 2002 and before that she worked as Director of Human Resources of Smiths Group. After qualifying as a lawyer, she worked for over 13 years with Shell including a two year secondment as Director of Aberdeen Enterprise and was the first woman in Shell to be ‘allowed’ to stay on an off-shore platform in 1980. She was awarded an OBE for services to the engineering industry in 2000.
Anne’s talk was inspiring for many reasons, not least of which was her generous willingness to share some of the lessons she had learned as a woman at the commercial edge of business in a male dominated industry. Anne’s career spanned the struggle for equal pay legislation and, perhaps subsequently, was one of the first GHRD’s in a FTSE 100 to introduce equal pay audits at Centrica.
The more interesting lessons, for me, come when a person is willing to share on a personal level. I don’t say this lightly as I understand how difficult it can be to share honestly and from the heart in business. Anne’s advice to women at Centrica was rooted around a belief that ‘quota’s will come’ unless we see some dramatic improvements in the number of women on boards and the need to get more women into general management leadership roles which would give greater opportunities for women to become CEOs of a company. She advised not to ‘forget who you are as a person’ and to ‘keep your femininity and use it to your advantage’ She also said be realistic about what you can do – no one can be super woman – make sure you have the support you need around you at home to be able to fulfill the demands of both family and job otherwise you are simply exhausted all of the time.
My own belief is that unless more of us can start having these kinds of honest discussions….yes.. ‘quota’s will come’.