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Episode 15: WERKIN with Inga Beale on closing the gender pay gap

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What does Inga Beale, Lloyd’s of London’s first female CEO think it will take to close the gender pay gap? Transparency, good data and a genuine commitment by companies to reflect and act on achieving gender parity at all levels of their businesses.  In Hayley’s latest interview, Beale emphasises the need to improve the seniority of women in organisations, leading to women attaining more of the highest paid top positions now predominantly occupied by men.

Looking at her own company, Lloyd’s of London, Beale talks about the need for flexible working environments,

“Very often it's the woman who might use or need to use part time flexibility. They might have caring responsibilities that they need to attend to, and often that falls more on the women. We're encouraging firms to do more of that and have a very flexible approach, looking at things like equal shared parental leave. Anything that brings balance and equality into policies and practices.”

In leading policy change to support women to advance in their careers, Beale thinks back to her own challenges with confidence,

“I think of my younger Inga, that rather timid tentative soul who actually said 'no' to her first promotion, I can't hardly recognise that person. But now if there's anything I can do to encourage women, because this is a slightly gender biased topic in that more women than men lack confidence, I found. Anything I can do to spur the younger women on to put their hand up. Be confident and go for those roles and take on those opportunities.”

How can companies be better about encouraging women to pursue leadership positions? By adopting mentorship and sponsorship programmes. Beale describes a sponsor she had, who went above and beyond the advice and support of a traditional mentor,

“She actually helped me make decisions and take career steps in the company that I was working in and would make sure my name was on lists. She would put my name forward she was a great reference for me. I was able to reach out to her and use her influence to help me progress my career in that firm.”

Through her success in the insurance industry, Beale struggled with bringing her whole self, a bisexual woman, to work.

“We need role models, I need to be a role model, to encourage others because I saw the power it gave me at work and I felt that I was much more productive… It's still important to be that role model to encourage others to be yourself at work because I see what it does and how it can inhibit you and affect your enjoyment and your feeling of inclusion or exclusion at work.”

As a leader at one of the world’s most successful firms, what does success personally mean to Beale?

“To empower women in business gives me an enormous satisfaction. Now it's become even broader than that and I want to empower all sorts of people who might feel slightly in the minority. I think of the LGBT community and how they're not feeling part of the mainstream workforce or not accepted yet, or people of colour, perhaps feeling still on the outside, particularly in the professional services financial services sector. If I've done something to empower those people and give them the confidence and courage to aim high and take all of those  top jobs, those senior jobs, I will have been personally successful.”

To hear more from Hayley’s interview with Inga Beale on the role of inclusivity in building a successful company listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud or iTunes.

WERKIN with Adam Hale on scaling a company with gender parity

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When asked about his role in taking an HR software tech start-up from 13 to 200 people, increasing its revenue by 1,000%, and its acquisition by Sage, the UK’s leading people management company, for £110 million, Adam Hale describes a story of demotions. Having originally been brought on as a non-executive adviser to scale a promising, but teeny startup, Hale was quickly “demoted” from board member, to executive chair, to CEO.

Known for his hands-on approach and diverse career in technology and headhunting, Hale proved to have the perfect combination needed to scale an innovative cloud-based startup,

“At that point, [Fairsail] was about to switch from being kind of an interesting startup to being the beginning of scale up. We focused on four things. We focused on having a really clear purpose of what we did. We focused on customer success. We focused on great innovation. We focused on building a team. I do believe that great companies are made up of great people.”

Purpose, customer success, innovation, and people—these are the ingredients of a successful and scalable business, according to Hale. It’s not just any people, it’s the best people. Hale’s leadership at Fairsail focused on building a diverse team. Recruiting women engineers ultimately led to near-gender parity across the startup, including on the engineering team. This focus on gender diversity has translated over to Sage People, the company that acquired Fairsail and now has a nearly 50-50 gender balance.

“It’s about having diversity, not just gender diversity but nationality diversity, age diversity, you know, the 50s are the new 30s which we all know anyway.”

But getting to gender balance in engineering requires attention to be paid to computer science education, a personal interest for Hale.

“I’ve been in technology my whole life… just started to discover computers and programming when I was a teenager, then realised you could actually study this at university. I thought ‘why not?’ So I did a computer science degree.”

Hale observes that not all kids have the same support and encouragement to study computer science that he had,

“I am terrified by what's happening with technology education in schools, particularly. Last year 2017, 50,000 girls did Maths A-level [UK standardised testing]. Computing A-level, 816 girls. The lowest number of any A-level subject, repeat: any A-level subject.”

Hale believes that when more girls are encouraged to study computer science and have more access to STEM education early on, this translates into a more balanced pool of engineers powering the future of tech.

If achieving gender balance is part of what it takes to scale up to one of the UK’s largest startup acquisitions, maybe other rising tech companies should take note.

For more from Adam about taking Human Resources into the 21st century and what tech leaders can learn from pig farmers, listen to the rest of Hayley’s interview here.