Women in IP event: "Be yourself, everyone else is taken"
The annual Women in IP panel event involved a well-experienced and engaging mix of panellists. The panel was chaired by Jane Mutimear (Partner at Bird & Bird) and included Alicia Chantrey (Vice-President, Legal Brand Protection at GSK), Jonathan Clarke (Director of Human Resources at Kilburn & Strode), Karen Crawley (Development Coach at Karen Crawley Coaching), and Anne-Marie L’Estrange (Executive Coaching at Oak Consultants).
After an opening discussion of recent articles in the press relating to gender and sexuality bias at senior management level and prejudice based on a women’s appearance, the panel was introduced and the first questions posed: what advice would you give someone at the beginning of their career? How to start climbing that ladder? How to manage your own traits and presentation of yourself?
The answers largely focussed on getting feedback and seeking out a mentor, but the advice from Alicia stood out. She recommended not necessarily sticking to the ladder, but doing what made you happy. To really listen to yourself and choose a path that aligned with your strengths and enjoyment. In a society where great importance is placed on “climbing the ladder” and getting that next promotion, this was refreshing advice and was well-received by everybody in the room.
Other pre-determined questions to the panel included: What to do when lacking confidence in a team of confident people? How to manage your and others’ character traits?
On the question of confidence, Anne-Marie provided three pointers: body language, eye contact and your voice. She gave an example to show how each of these impacts the message being delivered and further recommended “limiting your language” - keeping the message concise and clear. For managing character traits, the theme of the answers was self-awareness - to know yourself and your team, to be aware of what they are good at and where they want to go, and to create a safe space in which people are able to work without judgement or criticism.
The event then moved on to questions from the floor. These were varied and included:
- How to deliver hard messages when trying to be liked?
- How to avoid comparisons with others that are detrimental to your confidence?
- How do you bring about change when you are at a junior level?
- How to deal with criticism when it is not constructive?
- What is the difference between a sponsor and a mentor? How to go about getting a mentor and manage amount of information shared and the relationship more generally?
- How to manage comments or negativity when changing from full-time to part-time? For example, from five days a week to three or four days a week?
- How to change perception when you are promoted internally? For example to a leadership role?
Each of the panel members gave very honest and useful answers to the above questions, and continued to answer questions and provide advice during the drinks that followed the event. Overall it was a worthwhile evening and it definitely felt as if everybody left with a renewed sense of self-confidence and at least some of the tools to “be yourself”.