Creating communities on International Women’s Day
Stephanie Clarke, senior vice president (SVP) of global market intelligence at Broadridge Financial Solutions, shares her insights on what International Women’s Day means for her, finding her unique value proposition, and juggling life amidst the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
For me, it’s twofold – a celebration of the achievements of women and furthering the great community of women in the workplace. Women are especially good at creating communities; International Women’s Day is a genuine opportunity to further advance that community.
How have you been managing working from home?
Broadridge has always supported an element of work flexibility and so the technical transition to working from home was seamless. We had everyone up and running immediately; our technology scaled quickly to the new model; emergency committees set to check up on operation statuses were able to be wound down very quickly after the initial transition. An amazing achievement.
Beyond the technical side of things, it has been a learning curve for everyone – hard for different people on different days for different reasons as we have all had to adapt to the waves of restrictions. Empathy and flexibility have increased whilst the days of set hours have been replaced by trust in staff to do their jobs and do them well. I don’t worry about set times to be at my desk as I know I am trusted to deliver.
And do you think this way of working will stick around?
I see the pandemic as a massive pendulum. We have swung from our largely in-office presence to an entirely remote one. I don’t expect that we will ever swing right back to the way we were before. There have been plenty of gains made, in flexibility and productivity, that we would be foolish not to carry through post-pandemic. I look forward to being in a room with my colleagues and clients, regaining in-person contact, but the more “doing” parts of people’s roles can continue to be done from anywhere.
Do you think that working from home has balanced the playing field for women?
In some ways, the pandemic has been harder on women than it has been on men. Research shows that, in general, women have taken on more of the burden of homeschooling and household tasks. However, post pandemic, employers will continue to embrace flexibility and working from anywhere, and this in turn will break down some barriers and give more women confidence that it is indeed possible to do both.
Do you think it has brought about a culture shift within Broadridge?
Broadridge has a strong corporate culture that we work on every day to bring to our distributed workforce. For example, during the pandemic, we have had a strong focus on communications ensuring that employees are informed at every step. This robust communication is seen at all levels as we pull together our virtual teams. In meetings, everyone is exactly the same size square on the screen, whether you are the CEO or at a more junior level. Distance and seniority bias are eliminated; this levelling has brought about a feeling of equality with more people feeling able to contribute.
What has been your biggest challenge in your career working in financial services, which is quite a male-dominated environment?
Personally, I try to be defined by the value I bring to my company, not by my gender. The biggest challenge is to find your unique value proposition, skills, experience and knowledge. Have real confidence in that value proposition and bring it to work with you every day. Finding this identity is a great catalyst for success.
What would your advice be to women starting out in the industry today?
Knowing yourself is one of the biggest skills that I could advise people to have. I think the more self-awareness and the more you understand your strengths, and the more you understand what you are bringing, in turn breeds confidence. You can start to build your career on these strengths.
What would you say to somebody who finds it difficult to find that confidence?
Confidence is about focusing on the things that you can do rather than the things that you can’t. Nobody knows everything! Women sometimes focus on the things they feel they need to close these gaps. And whilst these gaps help us define our aspirations, we mustn’t view them as limitations.
Do you think that the fintech industry could be doing more to improve gender equality?
From a recruitment point of view, we may have a profile that we think is right for a role, but to improve diversity, that profile needs to be broader. There’s a comfort in hiring people that look like you, not only from a gender perspective, but somebody who has a similar background and a similar outlook to you.
We need a commitment from everyone in the industry to diversity, equality and inclusion. We need to encourage diversity of people and diversity of thought. We genuinely know that this is the right thing to do, and we also understand that diverse teams create better commercial outcomes.
What was the best piece of advice you were ever given?
Think big, move fast (but in small steps). This came at a point in my career when I was making a big pivot, but it’s applicable to many situations. Have a grand vision, but also have a plan on how to get there. Breaking it down into multiple small steps can help you visualise an achievable roadmap to achieving a significant goal, with the opportunity to make small and important course corrections along the way. This approach breaks down the barriers from something being an aspiration to being a reality.
In terms of equality, are you optimistic for the future?
I am very optimistic. I see the next generation coming through and based on my own experiences, they are well-informed, and they have a voice. Alongside their academic achievements, they have had real life lessons in resilience, independence, and adaptability.