Dame Fiona Woolf DBE – What International Women’s Day means to me

Dame Fiona Woolf DBEInternational Women’s Day is always a moment to celebrate how far we have come and set the direction of travel. I am conscious that I have been very fortunate and been able to seize more opportunities than many – so I have developed the motto “Get Lucky and Say “Yes”!”

It is true that there has been a strong element of luck but you can make your own luck by thinking ahead, being in the right place at the right time and taking input from others. You can’t sit around waiting for it all to drop into your lap – you have to ask! Saying “yes” does involve getting out of your comfort zone and facing a set of challenges, but they do represent an opportunity to learn and there is a deep sense of satisfaction when you succeed in rising to them. I have found that the more variety of skills and experience I have under my belt, the more flexible, efficient and confident I can become. Then it is easier it is to avoid feeling I’ll never succeed!

As for setting the direction of travel, I do think that there is now a lot of energy in the diversity and inclusion agenda. In the City we have been focusing on staying on – getting more women into senior executive positions and looking at the keepers of the talent pipeline, many of whom are having to do the work and lead a team at the same time. They have income targets to meet which take precedence over all the other values that they are asked to reflect. They don’t have much time for talent development or learning how to manage to capture the benefits of diversity and inclusion. A collaborative effort under the Lord Mayor’s Power of Diversity programme led by the Cass and Ashridge business schools is coming up with some tools that will motivate and measure a more inclusive culture where difference is a creative force for good.