Computer Futures' #MindTheGap on Female Leadership Programmes

On Wednesday 24th October, as part of our #MindTheGap campaign, we discussed the impact of female leadership programmes. The audience learned about SThree's IdentiFy programme from SThree speakers, and the event concluded with Jaqueline de Rojas, CBE and President of techUK, discussing her experience.

We spoke to Jenny Kelly, Senior Client Relationship Business Partner at Computer Futures, who successfully launched the #MindTheGap campaign in April 2017. According to Jenny, "This was a natural continuation for the #MindTheGap campaign and a great opportunity to share our own internal female leadership programme, IdentiFy. The programme helped me considerably to develop my skills, play to my strengths, and increase my own self-confidence.”

IdentiFy

Laura Poblete, Global Learning & Development Project Manager for SThree, spoke about how SThree's IdentiFy programme came into fruition in 2016. As this was a high potential programme for female future leaders, a rigorous application programme had to be designed, which ensured the whole process was fair and transparent.While 130 applicants were whittled down to a shortlist of just 30, Laura stressed that it was equally important to support those who were not successful, and ensure L&D professionals were on hand to help them create their own personal development plan. 

She then went into further detail about how the programme was structured based on an Impact, Lead, Connect and Solve model, which can be viewed here. While it’s too early to identify any concrete outcomes, we have seen a marginal increase in diversity, with 14 promotions and a higher level of retention. Laura has also seen increased confidence, skills development, and noticed individuals challenging the status quo. The future of IdentiFy will focus on how we continue the development of women within our organisation, while also looking to widen the network to men.

The IdentiFy experience

Faith Doherty, Senior Client Relationship Manager, shared her personal experiences of IdentiFy.

She explained that the programme made her realise that she was spending a lot of time supporting other colleagues rather than maximising her own potential. IdentiFy gave Faith a framework to realise her goals, harness her strengths, and become a better leader without compromising her values. Whilst completing one of the modules, Faith originally questioned how she could survive in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) environment, which are some of the common themes encountered in the modern workplace. Upon reflecting on her previous experiences she realised that her strength of harmony could in fact work well in a volatile situation, as she's good at steering people away from conflict. Ultimately, Faith thanked IdentiFy for helping her to gain clarity into what she can offer, and helping her to embrace a leadership role and feel more confident in her authority.

The importance of senior sponsorship

We also heard from Mike Walker, UK&I Managing Partner for SThree, who spoke about the importance of senior sponsorship for such programmes. Mike spoke of SThree’s organic nature of promoting from within, and the importance of the IdentiFy programme; especially in achieving the company’s purpose of bringing skilled people together to build the future. Mike discussed the difference between mentorship and sponsorship, where he revealed to the audience he believed his main duty as sponsor was to push his sponsee and challenge them throughout the programme. “We are also looking at those returning to work and other programmes we can run”, said Mike. This also includes a new business manager training programme, which is set to launch in 2019.

Nurturing and encouraging talent

For the closing speech, we welcomed Jacqueline de Rojas, CBE and President of techUK, who revealed a shocking anecdote; in 1999 she was overlooked for a senior role and was told, "We simply do not put women on the leadership team". She went on to explain that, "It doesn't matter how hard the door slams, there's always a miracle waiting around the corner”. She went on to discuss her experience of being an MD for the first time, and highlighted the importance of not being afraid to ask questions when unsure.

Jacqueline concluded by advising the audience to find their top five strengths and focus on them to succeed. According to Jacqueline, “We’re creating more jobs than we can fill; borders are closing to international talent and we’re not increasing domestic talent as well as engaging with mothers returning to work. Nurturing our talent will make us a country of significance in a post-Brexit world."

We'd like to thank all of our speakers and especially our audience for posing engaging questions to the panel. To view the whole presentation from the event, please click here.