For International Women’s Day, Impellam brought together employees from around the world in our London office. We shared our thoughts and reflected on inclusive workplaces in a session supported by Emily Esfahani Smith, the author behind the ground-breaking book ‘The Power of Meaning’.
Over the last few years, many of us have had our lives turned upside down by global events that according to Emily’s research, have made sources of happiness an increasingly scarce resource. Emily’s work suggests that happiness is a fleeting source for wellbeing, and that ‘meaning’, the connection we have to others, can inspire a more stable foundation for resilience and success.
At SRG, we want to reignite our people’s sense of meaning, belonging and enthusiasm at work in an authentic, meaningful way.
Our panel delved into some of the pillars behind finding meaning in the workplace as women, and how the world of work can better facilitate equality and fairness.
Led by Jemma Pritchard Smith, Innovation Lead, the panel features:
- Kelly Morton, STEM Portfolio CEO
- Hayley Klaff, STEM Director of Projects
This is what they had to say…
Emily spoke about the four pillars upon which meaning rests: Belonging, Purpose, Storytelling and Transcendence. Which pillar most resonates with you and why?
Kelly: The pillar of storytelling stood out to me. I think it is incredibly important to value your own journey and what identifies you. For me personally as a female CEO, that means being open about my humble beginnings, practicing radical candour and being authentic.
Taking ownership of my story in a conscious way doesn’t mean erasing the challenges I’ve overcome, rather, I proactively make the challenges the context, and my success the focus.
Hayley: For me, it’s probably the pillar of belonging. I think it’s enormously important to find a workplace that strengthens a sense of belonging.
Personally, feeling part of something has always been a core value, from attending youth clubs as a child, to searching for a work environment where I feel like I truly fit in. In my earlier career I would move jobs every 2-3 years, before I found Impellam, where I feel I’ve finally found the right environment for me.
What drives equality in the workplace?
Hayley: I believe that role modelling is really important. When I talk with my friends, it becomes clear that sometimes women do things that we think we should do, and that sometimes people take things on more than they think they do.
When role models and female leaders in the workplace can demonstrate and showcase a strong balance, it becomes easier to feel empowered and comfortable in your own successes.
Kelly: I personally returned to work when my son was just 3 months old, and soon after my husband returned to his role where he largely worked abroad.
Working with a young child was challenging; there’s a mental load associated with balancing wider responsibilities both inside, and outside of work. This mental load culminates in feeling emotionally exhausted, and as though there’s no space for enjoyment. I believe this is a challenge that most women, and many working parents – mums and dads alike, often experience.
I’ve found that the women within the senior leadership team are empowering, and we often discuss the importance of caregivers – both male, and female, attaining a sense of balance in the workplace. Realizing this balance and enabling employees to achieve a strong work life balance can help drive equality and reinforce the success of women in the workplace.
Hayley: On the subject of mental load, women (and men) can often discount themselves in the workplace. It’s up to colleagues, and team leaders alike to uplift each other, and identify and express the great things that we’re all doing together. We need to talk through the highlights as well as the challenges and encourage each other through our successes.
Kelly: As a leader, I’ve always veered away from a hierarchal approach. I don’t want to be inaccessible to people. I believe that a responsibility to manage people goes alongside a responsibility to be honest. I believe in a culture of radical candour, by actively communicating the truth, you can help people practice their role in a more thoughtful way and set them up for success.
Doing this across the organisation means carving out equal opportunities for growth, opportunities and progression for every employee – rather than solely for those individuals that feel confident enough to seek progression.
If you could give one piece of advice to women in the workplace, what would it be?
Kelly: I would advise you to be the best version of yourself, not a second-rate version of someone else.
Hayley: Keep striving and pushing, it’s important to know that when you try new things – you can fail and sometimes failing is when we learn the most. If you try and stay in your comfort zone, you’ll never learn what could be, so never be afraid of failure.
Jemma: It’s not important what anyone else thinks of you, you can only beat the person you were yesterday – that’s who your competition is.