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Here’s a report of the July 2020 Women in IP coffee date, from committee member Emily Teesdale. Thank you to Emily and her co-organiser Isobel Barry, and to the organisations that hosted the discussions. The next coffee date is already being planned for Thursday 27 August: keep an eye on our events page for details.

Emily writes:

On Thursday 16 July, we had our third virtual “Women in IP” coffee chat. This time, we held it at lunchtime and the theme was “Putting Yourself Forward”.

We had over 10 different Zoom calls, with nearly 100 participants. We were especially happy to see some men join the calls and it was great to get their insights, too. These chats are, of course, open to all genders and we would love for some more men to join us (hint, hint!).

 

A screenshot of the Midlands Zoom call

 

We discussed three specific questions:

1) What is your experience of putting yourself forward? Do you find it easy or difficult? Does it depend on the situation?

2) What tips do you have to help others put themselves forward?

3) Do you think there are any systemic barriers to putting yourself forward in the IP profession?

Some of the thoughts and insights on the three questions we had were (in no particular order):

 

1) What is your experience of putting yourself forward? Do you find it easy or difficult? Does it depend on the situation?

– One spoke about how the culture in her work place makes her feel valued and more willing to volunteer, however in a situation where two people go for the same goal, she would often find herself giving way too easily and perhaps missing out on the opportunity, and others which flow from it.

– Most found it depended on the circumstances but had experience of finding it hard to put themselves forward for such things as (i) particular jobs; (ii) specific tasks within our jobs; (iii) at BD networking events; and (iv) public speaking opportunities.

– Most people said that their ability to put themselves forward is learned.

– Some found that it was easier to put oneself forward to people you don’t know.

– Perhaps, easier in front of other women or when it is on behalf of somebody else.

– Some felt it was easier when there is nobody else and it has to be you.

– It can be more difficult for introverts than for extroverts.

– Can depend on mood – if you’re in a positive mood, it’s easier to push your boundaries.

– Often, we can be very self-critical, and if we don’t feel like an expert, it’s much scarier to volunteer.

– Some noted that putting ourselves forward was a difficult learning process at early stages of career especially in male-dominated areas of IP where some egos and personalities can tend to dominate, if allowed, and drown out the voice of others who don’t feel comfortable making their voice heard.

 

One of the London Zoom calls

 

2) What tips do you have to help others put themselves forward?

– Do not be put off by a male-dominated environment.

– Do not feel you need to meet 100% of the requirements in order to put yourself forward.

– One participant suggested a rule of thumb of 80% was good enough to put oneself forward – can I do at least 80% of what is being asked for?

– Make more noise and promote yourself more – don’t assume someone else would be better able to do the job than you.

– One opportunity may lead to others and so it is important to get involved.

– If you don’t put yourself forward for something, you fail by default – don’t let imposter syndrome put you off.

– Push yourself out of your comfort zone and it gets bigger. But it can get smaller again if you don’t continue to push yourself. “Feel the fear and do it anyway!”

– Start pushing yourself out there, with roles you have an affinity with (ie push yourself out of your comfort zone steadily).

– Practise public speaking and other leadership/networking skills etc in a non-work context.

– “Fake it till you make it.”

– Remember employers are not looking for perfection – don’t let your fear of making a mistake or ridicule get in the way.

– One-to-one mentoring was thought to be important. Find someone who will push you to do more.

– Think of the end result.

– You can gain confidence from learning how apparently confident people (eg men) also have doubts.

– Take your time to say things; remember that you have a right to the floor and what you have to say is worth other people listening. Try to get over any embarrassment you might feel.

– Mindfulness; don’t overthink it; separate it from yourself; take focus away from how you feel and focus on the goal.

– Know your worth – sometimes we interact with people who are not used to a woman being the person in the room who has the most expertise. You might pick up on this bias and it can remove your confidence. Have to remind yourself that you know what you’re doing!

– I think we all agreed that with experience confidence grows and it is about just going for it. Practise!

– Breathing exercises before public speaking.

– Reaching out to others who have perhaps been where you have been before.

– In your appraisals, point out all the different things you have done that your line manager may not know about eg articles written, pitches involved in, events attended etc (perhaps keep a Word document to keep track of them). Use these as evidence of what you can do and why you should be trusted to do the next thing you want to do.

– Seek a mentor: that may be someone who is not a formal mentor but perhaps more of an ally who is in a position of power and who wants a fair hearing space for anyone in the firm or in the group to put himself/herself/themselves forward.

– One mentioned the need to consider what it is you put yourself forward for. Don’t only put your hand up for the jobs no one else wants to do, or just the “softer” jobs (such as tasks in recruitment)! If you volunteer for the rubbish, there will be no time for the better, more ambitious, stuff. Be strategic!

– If you know there is an area you want to be involved in, talk to people about it informally (“If xyz were to come up, I’d be really keen to be involved”).

 

The Fab Four in our Bath Zoom call

 

3) Do you think there are any systemic barriers to putting yourself forward in the IP profession, and what can we do to improve things?

– We identified the need to talk about women’s progression in the work place; to have the conversation.

– Some felt that more female role models in the top echelons was important but not everyone saw that as necessary.

– We thought that some of the barriers are those we perhaps perceive ourselves rather than those that exist.

– Insofar as any barriers are IP-specific, it may be because people working in IP tend to be perfectionists and introverts.

– We need to have staff review processes/appraisals that ask people what they want to do.

– Lots of situations work against people who like to think things over before throwing around ideas and questions – this can be addressed by providing questions in advance so the people who like to think things over have a chance to.

– The need for a culture of respect for all in the organisation was highlighted.

– Not having a “first to put your hand up” culture – give people time to think and respond, and still be taken just as seriously.

– Shining a light on tasks and roles that add value to the business, but are not “glamourous” or especially visible (eg recruitment), so those doing them get the credit they deserve.

– Spotting opportunities for others.

– The role of chairpersons in meetings was highlighted and an awareness of giving everyone a space to be heard and the need to challenge the louder voices, but in a non-confrontational way. This of course depends on the quality of the chairperson in such meeting room (or Zoom) contexts. Perhaps having an agenda where everyone knows who will speak when.

– It is important that, as more senior people, we sometime keep quiet ourselves in meetings! Also, within a team, deliberately setting up a culture where people feel they should speak up, and should raise questions and present new ideas, eg trainers coaching trainees to make sure they ask questions and speak up.

 

Thank you to all our hosts for setting up the Zoom calls and chairing the conversations. And thank you to everyone who joined us and shared their thoughts with us.

Our next one is planned for Thursday 27 August and will be advertised on LinkedIn and on the IP Inclusive events page. Please do get in touch with emily.teesdale@abelimray.com and isobel.barry@carpmaels.com if you would like to be involved in hosting one of the Zoom calls.

 

 

Page published on 27th July 2020
Page last modified on 27th July 2020
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