Recent research shows it’s still a man’s world even in an industry as popular to women as HR and learning and development.
At yesterday’s Learning Technologies Summer Forum the role of women in L&D came under scrutiny when three women in senior L&D roles were asked about how they got to their positions, given that recent research showed that in senior roles men still outnumber women (66 per cent male to 34 per cent female).
The session, very ably chaired by Sharon Claffey Kaliouby, included Sarah Malone, head of learning, resources and talent at Post Office, Barbara Thompson, learning and performance consultant at BT and Binnaz Cubukcu, learning design manager at Ikea who told the audience about their careers and what attributes they see as being crucial to their success.
The three interviewees had different perspectives on their routes into L&D with Malone talking about her shock in leaving academic study to enter the world of work where the perception of someone ‘not knowing all the answers’ was frowned upon. She felt her innate curiousity and being courageous helped her through the transition from academic study to workplace learning. She said it was important to “facilitate playful behaviour and to have a laugh because you’re [at work] a long time”. As a working mother flexibility was very important and recommended choosing the right organisation that offers the flexibility you might need as a working mother with young children. When she worked for BT global it was easier to be flexible where the working pattern was not fixed at 9 – 5. For her success is being happy and interested and that when you feel hungry for something else moving on to something else.
Thompson left school with few qualification and feels she suffers from the ‘imposter syndrome’ as a result. A keen sportswoman she maintains that her competitive nature stands her in good stead. She used the moves in basketball to illustrate how you might succeed in your roles – the need to pivot and use lateral movements to achieve outcomes. She also felt it was important to be playful and inquisitive. Thompson said it was crucial to understand your organisation and work with the environment to establish a reputation – to “have a voice”.
From the outset of her career Cubukcu knew what she wanted and trusted her own abilities. She said it was important to be your authentic self and know how to play the game – when to fight and when to move back. She used the idea a pair of gloves to illustrate – “if you try on a pair of gloves and they don’t fit you discard them and try another pair until they feel right. If we don’t fit move on – you blossom if you fit.” For Cubukcu success is doing what you love and standing by your decisions.
The session was rounded up by Claffey Kaliouby stressing the importance of a sponsor/champion to keep you in the spotlight and of building networks both inside and outside the workplace.
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