Showing vulnerability and admitting mistakes is the key to brave leadership and showing the next generation that they can follow in your footsteps, according to a senior business leader.
Paula Dillon, vice chair of West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, told a room full of property professionals that pretending to be perfect wasn’t helpful to the gender stereotyping debate.
Speaking at the Smashing Stereotypes panel event, hosted by CBRE’s Women's Network, Ms Dillon said: “It’s about showing vulnerability, admitting mistakes and letting people see that they could be in that position too. It’s not just about showing people you are always amazing. It’s showing that people screw up and people take the wrong turn. But somehow you get there, and it’s about encouraging people that it could be them, whoever they are.”
She admitted it was ‘quite late on’ in her career that she realised she didn’t have to be perfect. “I knew I wasn’t but I thought I was supposed to be,” she said.
“As I started mentoring more and more young people, the thing they said to me over and over again was that it was really helpful for them to understand the things that have gone wrong for me.”
Angela Barnicle, chief officer of asset management and regeneration at Leeds City Council, said women had to be brave to break out of their stereotypes.
She revealed that she was once told she came across as a “northern coffee shop mum” by a former colleague in London during a coaching session for its director candidate centre.
“When I was told that, I thought: ‘I’m going to nail this’,” she said. “But I could only do that with the support of some other people.”
She added: “It can be a lonely place. Find someone you trust and keep them close.”
Rashmi Dube, founding partner of Legatus Law, said it was essential to deconstruct and reconstruct individual beliefs. “We create our own stereotypes of who we are or who we’re supposed to be because we work within a fixed transcript,” she said.
She added: “We have to be brave, we have to individually change and then we have to try and bring other people with us.
“We can only change in larger numbers but somebody has to start it individually.
“It’s going to feel uncomfortable but that’s the point of change.”
Guy Hurwood, senior director at CBRE said men had an important role to play in smashing stereotypes.
“When I had to work in a team that had an 8am-8pm culture and nobody left early or picked up their kids, there was a lot of pressure,” he said. “I took the step to say ‘I’m going to pick the kids up and I’ll work around it’ to help bring that changing culture to the team.”
Ms Dillon said it was vital for businesses to get the model of leadership they promote right. “It needs to be inclusive, it needs to be non-perfect and it needs to be made clear that you don’t have to be amazing from day one in order to achieve,” she said.
Simone Roche, of Northern Power Women, who chaired the debate at Avenue HQ in Leeds, added: “It’s not all about difficult things to implement and change. Finding allies, changing our language and being deliberate with educating our young people are things we can all do.
“Everyone can do something and it’s those small things, like helping a next door neighbour with their LinkedIn profile or interview experience, that will add up and make the difference.”
Established in 2005, the CBRE UK Women’s Network is a group of people who aim to make CBRE a more rewarding place for everyone to work.
The group aspires to attract and retain the most talented women, to develop their skills and to aid their success and advancement in the company as well as the real estate industry generally.
The Women's Network influences the diversity and inclusion policies at CBRE, resulting in securing fully paid shared parental leave for men and for women in 2018, ongoing maternity coaching for women, unconscious bias training for leadership and across the business and a focus on inclusive leadership and training programmes for staff.
It also has an informal promotion mentoring programme for women.
The network runs events across the UK throughout the year, client events, and more formal and informal networking opportunities.