Meet Jane Braithwaite, Managing Director, Designated Group
What does #BalanceforBetter mean to you personally?
Personally, #BalanceforBetter means balancing my work and personal lives to achieve a better life overall. My three teenage daughters are my highest priority and ‘balance’ means being able to work in the evening in order to have time to watch a hockey match or simply talk to them after school. The challenge for me, and I’m sure many others, is to find the balance between work, family and me time.
What steps do you and your own organisation take to achieve gender balance?
Our organisation is probably not typical in that we are a largely female team, headed up by an all female senior management team. Our very ethos is to promote flexible working for all and so, historically, this has appealed to women. This is now showing signs of changr, though, and more men are interested in joining us, which is great. For me personally, the objective is equality for men and women.
What attributes do women need to succeed today? How do you think this has changed in recent years?
I wouldn’t necessarily encourage women to behave differently but simply to be who we are. It’s important for women to view themselves as equal, behave as equals and expect to be treated as such. We need to take ownership and responsibility of our own financial futures, to plan for retirement for example. In previous generations, it was more common to have one main bread winner, but this is no longer the case and this significant change drives a need for equality,
Women can be accused of being ‘aggressive’ where a man would be labelled ‘assertive’. How do you get your voice heard at work?
I dislike being called “emotional” too, and I am probably more inclined to be accused of that behaviour. I found this a huge problem when I was younger, being talked over during meetings and having my ideas repeated back to me having been originally ignored. Speak very clearly and with good volume in meetings to ensure an air of authority. If interrupted, ensure you get the opportunity to finish your point. All of this comes with experience and confidence.
Which female leaders have inspired you throughout your career?
During my senior school and university years, Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister. Whilst I didn’t necessarily realise it at the time, having a female leader of the country during my formative years definitely impacted on my belief in equality. I was hugely impressed by Anita Roddick creating the Body Shop from such small acorns. She is a fantastic example of a woman growing a big business from something that could easily have been discounted as a hobby or a passion early on. I have followed Baroness Karren Brady’s career from 1993 when at aged 23 she was appointed as Managing Director of Birmingham City FC. We are the same age! I remember very clearly the negative press her appointment received, and I was impressed at how strong she must have felt to take on such a role. Seriously impressive.
What or who inspires you to succeed on a daily basis, either professionally or at home?
At home I am constantly inspired by my daughters and their ability to learn new information, new skills and develop new talents.
At work I am constantly inspired by my team, displaying behaviours that motivate me. For example, a manager with the absolute determination to work through a difficult situation and ensure that it is resolved professionally. Or a PA taking ownership of a problem and solving it, but also going beyond that, without being asked to, and building new processes which ensure the problem does not recur.
What message do you want to give to tomorrow’s young female leaders?
Behave as equal and do not accept less. And realise that equal status brings equal responsibility.