Voices in Governance - Women supporting Women: International Women’s Day 2024

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘inspiring inclusion’. This blog is focused on how women can support and inspire women through mentoring, and we have asked some of our members to share their experiences.

Gemma Parsons, Company Secretary at Burberry Group, explains:

“When I first started in the profession almost 30 years ago, I worked for a FTSE 100 company with a high-profile female Company Secretary who was also a Non-Executive Director of another FTSE 100 company.  This was inspirational at the start of my career, at a time when most of the top jobs were held by men and there was a much smaller number of female NEDs of FTSE 100 companies.

Not only was she very supportive of my starting my professional training, but she also demonstrated that it was possible to reach the top of the profession as a woman. Several years later I worked for another high-profile female Company Secretary who supported my continuing development towards holding the ‘top job’, encouraging and advocating for me within the business and externally.”

Meanwhile Chloe Barry, Group Company Secretary, Kingfisher, shares her experience:

“I will always be grateful to my original ‘champion’, Catherine. Catherine was my Head of Secretariat, who recruited me over 20 years ago now. She saw something in me. A potential which, if I am truly honest, I am not sure that I saw in myself at that time. However, Catherine was consistently supportive and generous with opportunities that allowed me and others to take on new responsibilities, to develop in new areas, and to gain exposure with key stakeholders.

Catherine was also responsible for what was ultimately a successful nomination bid, that saw me named CGI High Flyer – One to Watch for the Future back in 2007 (now the CGIUKI One to Watch Award). A recognition that I would never in a million years have considered for myself and the submission itself took considerable time on her part to prepare. However, beyond being my manager at one time, Catherine has continued to be an unswerving supporter, a referee, and someone whose approach I look to emulate as I now am entrusted with the development and progression of others.”

Emily Spooner, Senior Assistant Company Secretary, describes:

“In my career to date I’ve had several managers and mentors and I’ve been lucky enough that some of these have also been great leaders. By leaders, I don’t necessarily mean the head of a team. Instead, I’m referring to that unsung hero who pushes you to achieve your best, who puts you in situations you wouldn’t normally dare to put yourself in, who leads by example, and who champions you to be a better version of yourself.

For me, I’d like to thank Natalie for her support and commitment, for her desire to elevate people, and for her belief, both whilst we worked for the same company, and after. For everyone else – get yourself a Natalie – having a supportive line manager makes all the difference!”

Overall, having a mentor can help to inspire inclusion within an organisation. By supporting each other we can achieve a better future. We would like to wish you a happy International Women’s Day! If you wish to build your own supportive network, CGIUKI has several upcoming events where you can meet other governance professionals. We offer a coaching and mentoring service too.


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