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Women leading the workplace: an interview with Louise Campbell and Kristin Thomas on Women’s Equality Day - 2021

On August 26, 1970, 50,000 women marched together to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the passage of women’s right to vote in the U.S. That day, the Women's Strike for Equality March sparked a feminist movement that opened doors for women’s rights not only across the U.S., but across the world. One year later, August 26 was observed as Women’s Equality Day, a day we reflect on the continuing struggle for equality in the workplace and the progress made over the last 50 years.

female boss leading team meeting

Despite the ever-changing obstacles women encounter in the workplace, they continue to persevere and push through barriers that ultimately improve work culture. And creating a dynamic, vibrant work culture is something we value at Robert Walters. We strive to encourage conversations around diversity, especially because as recruiters, we can make a difference that impacts work culture for the better. So, in honor of Women’s Equality Day, we sat down with a few female leaders at Robert Walters to reflect on their own career journeys in recruitment, discuss current struggles women are facing in the workplace, and the opportunities that could help open doors for future generations.

With 18 years at Robert Walters Ireland, Managing Director, Louise Campbell shares a few of her great experiences as a woman in the workplace, from opening and running our Dublin office, to establishing her seat at the table as the only female in directors’ meetings. And our Head of U.S. Resource Solutions, Kristin Thomas, dives into her career journey as a woman in the recruiting industry and offers great perspective on the necessity for establishing a productive work culture for her team. 

Overcoming diversity in the workplace

Historically, working in a male-dominated profession has presented many challenges for female leaders. How have you overcome diversity throughout your career? And what advice would you share with young women entering a male-dominated profession?

“Honestly, I’ve found that I worked better with men than I did with women throughout my career. Maybe that’s because they didn’t think they had to compete with me, but I like to believe they respected me for not trying to be one of the guys in the office. I’ve always been able to work my way up at the companies I’ve worked at. And what’s always worked for me is being myself and creating trust with my team-mates. I genuinely like people. I go in eager to make relationships with co-workers, to get to know them and learn about their lives in a respectful way.

My advice is don’t over complicate things. I think women tend to overthink how they're supposed to act in a male-dominated environment. Just be proud of who you are. Be your most authentic-self, work hard, have faith in your abilities, and forgive yourself if you make a mistake.” - Kristin Thomas

“From a business perspective, when I opened our Dublin office at age 29 and was tasked with hiring a workforce, I operated on a gut instinct. I’m not sure if it was by luck or if I made a conscious decision that we always had a fairly diverse representation in the business, but I’ve never worked in a business that wasn’t somewhat diverse. I think overcoming that obstacle was never an issue for me. From a personal perspective, I was made a Managing Director at 30, and at the time the only female MD in Europe. So, I was often the only woman in the room at directors’ meetings. I was fortunate that I worked with a nice group of men. I never felt intimidated or that I needed to act like them in order to succeed, but it helped that I was really focused on producing results. And that’s important in our industry. If you're putting money on the board, you have a voice, which translates to any business where productivity is directly related to revenue.

People used to tell me I was too soft, but I realized my emotions and caring nature were actually my skills, and what enabled me to create a productive business. My advice is if your leadership skills aren’t what a typical male would be, then be different. Use them, work on them, and turn them into your strengths.” - Louise Campbell

Challenges in the workplace

It’s common knowledge that many women are struggling with unplugging and being present during family time while working from home. Do you feel that your work-life balance has changed for the better since the pandemic hit? Have you found struggles in separating the two?

“Definitely not at first. I still struggle with logging off for personal time. But I encourage my team to not open work emails over the weekend...even if they’re from me. I think it's something you can’t change on your own. Team leaders and HR managers need to collaborate with helping employees create their own schedules. Employees have completely different lives, but they’re all professionals who are going to do their job. This is why working in an inclusive environment is so important. A mom shouldn’t have to apologize for needing to pick her kid up from school.” - Kristin Thomas

“I think that it's something we all need to work on, including myself. I’ll have my laptop open at the dinner table or on my lap while watching TV. And I notice people are still sending emails at ten o'clock at night. We should be embracing a culture that logs off at six and enjoys our free time.” - Louise Campbell

Opportunities in the workplace

Although there’s a multitude of events happening that will have a lasting impact on society, such as COVID-19, what is the biggest change happening for women in the workplace right now that you feel will have a lasting impact for future generations?

“When COVID first hit, I had female employees with kids who we’re taking on home-schooling and couldn’t get work done till late at night. And I had female employees who we’re single or divorced living in isolation with nothing to do but work. We had a team meeting where everyone vented about their struggles at home. It really helped my team gain perspective and empathize with one another. Mental health is so important in the workplace. There’s a lot of great women resigning from companies from workplace burnout. Hopefully this will open a door of opportunity and change the way women are supported at work.” - Kristin Thomas

“The biggest change right now is the ability to work from home for women. Despite the dreadful nature of the pandemic, I believe it’s created many big opportunities for women within the corporate world. Having that element of flexibility with working remotely has been life changing. It’s also refocused employers to look at other things besides presentism. For so many years, you had to be in the office working till midnight if you wanted to be promoted to director or partner. But now, companies are more results focused. They don’t care where you do the work as long as results are happening. That has worked very much in favor of women who have to juggle their career and family life. It takes up a lot of time and hinders their chances of moving up when they have to leave early to pick up their kids.” - Louise Campbell

Conclusion

Robert Walters is making an active effort to help close the gap for women in leadership roles by providing equal opportunity for career growth -- and we lead by example. The number of women promoted in 2020 more than doubled the number of promotions given to men. Nevertheless, women’s equality in the workplace has been an ongoing battle for too long, which is why we take every opportunity to support our female employees at Robert Walters with a strong diversity and inclusion practice.

If you’re looking to join a forward-thinking business committed to building a diverse and inclusive culture, you’re at the right place. Reach out to Liz Boston, Talent and Development Manager, about our current open vacancies across the U.S. & Canada. 

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