Podcast transcript: How organizations can actively support women on their path to leadership

17 min approx | 8 March 2021

Welcome to the EY Advanced Manufacturing and Mobility Business Minute podcast series where EY professionals explore the critical business issues impacting our industry today.

Randy Miller

Well, hi everyone, I'm Randy Miller. I’m EY’s Global Advanced Manufacturing and Mobility (AM&M) Leader. This episode is focused on celebrating International Women's Day, an important event that reminds us of our achievements and successes, as well as what remains to be done to close the gender gap. At EY, we've long believed that gender equality is key to unlocking business growth and helping societies to thrive. A top priority for me at EY is to increase the number of women we have within our leadership teams across advanced manufacturing and mobility roles. I'm proud to say that we've taken good steps forward over the past couple of years through our internal AM&M women's network. The main goal of that network is to support our top female talent on their path to achieving their career goals, as well as learning about and removing any barriers that prevent EY women from having equal opportunities across our firm. With us today, we have two women who are participating in this inaugural group of the women's network. I'd like to give a warm welcome to Helen Bentley and Nina Brodersen. Welcome!

Nina Brodersen

Thank you very much.

Helen Bentley

Hi Randy, great to be with you today.

Miller

Well, let's start with Helen. Helen, as a partner within the firm, you're further advanced in your leadership journey. Can you tell us why you chose to participate in our women's network and what it means to you to be a part of it?

Bentley

Absolutely. Well, for those of you who don't know me, I'll give a brief introduction. My name is Helen Bentley. I'm a partner at EY, focused on digital strategy, innovation and experience. I've spent the last 10 years working in Tokyo, and I've just relocated to London. Now Randy, I'll tell you the women's network that you've created has been fantastic for me. As a member of our global community and a company of 250,000 people, it can be quite hard to reach out to other people working in the same field and to share case studies, successes and failures. And I think the global nature of this network is what makes it stand out for me. I've really been able to connect with some of our top leaders, including yourself and Nina, within our organization. And the second thing, obviously, this is a women’s network and I would love to say that we don't need women-specific networks, and that we have gender parity and we can have diverse groups on cores, and absolutely those networks exist. But, in our industry, there are few women at the top and we do need to pull together to give each other support. Certainly, in Japan, many times I've been the only woman in the room. So, it's been wonderful for me to connect with other like-minded women around the world and I'm grateful to be part of it.

Miller

Thanks for that Helen and I think that international perspective is really impactful as you move across the firm and I’m glad we're able to leverage that as part of this process. Let's move on to Nina. Nina as a senior manager at EY, what challenges do you see ahead of you and how do you think your participation in our women's network will help you overcome those?

Brodersen

Thank you, Randy. I do think that my biggest challenge is time, and this is maybe everyone's main challenge. In my role as an advisor, diligence is extremely important. But I still have to keep in mind that I have to do the right thing, and I think this might be also more of a women’s issue. I'm not sure, but I do have the feeling sometimes that men are more taking the next step forward and making sure you have really good support. I want to make sure that I have it too. This is what I’ve also seen with women, with role models in the firm that are women. They make sure that the team around them really trusts them. And then, when they know that the partner trusts them, they also make sure to not do any mistakes. But this I think is super important. And also, the same with my clients, that you build good relationships with your clients so that you have this natural relationship. So, nothing is such a big deal, because you speak with them often. This is my biggest challenge and I think the solution is related to strong teams and relations. And with the network, I think that, this will help me to get inspired to do what I really want. I think on our last meetings I always felt super inspired afterwards to get a new perspective on what you could offer to your clients, and also working with this inclusiveness and diversity questions. And I love that these questions also have become more important for our clients, and that we actually now have a platform to work with these questions also at EY in our advisory roles also. And this, I think is something that I really want to develop in my future roles.

Miller

Alright, well thank you Nina! I think EY is extraordinarily committed to an aggressive D&I program from the top of the firm, all the way through all aspects of our business and especially around gender, a key aspect of our strategy. So, thanks for that view. So, let's come back to Helen for a second. Helen, in your experience, are the barriers that you face as a woman at this level of your career different from the challenges you faced as a woman earlier in your career. And how are you working to change things for future generations of women in the firm?

Bentley

Gosh Randy, that's a big question. Thank you. First of all, with regards to challenges, I think that we all face, regardless of our gender, similar challenges as we progress through our career. We have bigger budgets to manage, bigger teams to manage, bigger projects to deal with, more difficult clients, a lot more responsibility on our shoulders and higher expectations. And I don't think that's relevant to one gender over another. But I do think there are some specific challenges that may be unique to women at the moment, particularly in our industry. And that's not saying every industry is the same, but in our industries, we've touched upon this already, there aren't very many women at the top. And that means you can often be driving your ship alone as it were, and that can feel lonely sometimes. And in addition to that, it can be the case that you face some discrimination, and I wish that weren't the case and I think in a lot of places it isn't, but it does still exist and we can't be naive about that fact. So sometimes you can have some challenges at work and that's why networks like this are so crucial. Because these are safety nets. These are places where you can meet other people who are equally feeling those things that you are, and you can talk to them about some of the challenges. And that brings me on to your second question, which is what am I doing for the next generation of female leaders? And I would broaden that to say what are we doing? You started up this network, which has been great for us at a senior level and we are now trying to put a similar network in place for junior members of the organization with high-potential, high-performing female talent. And it's important that we inspire that next generation because it's not often that women think of going into AM&M. We don't get as many women interested. And it's a fantastic part of the business to be involved with. Huge technological change happening. Industry is being redefined. The industries of the future being redefined and who wouldn't want to be part of that. So I hope that we are doing our part to inspire the next generation and My closing note on this would be to say that leadership itself is changing. We're seeing employees, shareholders, society have much higher expectations of leaders or different expectations. You know, it's not just about the bottom line. We also have to make sure that we're engaging, infusing our employees, giving them great opportunities, that we are respecting diversity and inclusion, that we are meeting sustainability and climate change goals. People care about all of these things and it puts a lot of pressure on our shoulders. And with that in mind, I think that we have to take this opportunity to redefine what it means to be leaders. And women have a great chance, therefore, to change the narrative. Maybe20-30 years ago, women in leadership were trying to act like the boys and get a seat at the table and behave like them. We can’t be naïve about the fact that men and women do work in a slightly different way. So, hopefully, as all these changes are coming about in our working environment, accelerated by COVID-19, we are going to be able to take that opportunity to redefine what it means to be leaders in our firm. And I certainly hope to be thinking about my purpose as a leader and inspiring my next generation of female leaders and their leaders to do the same.

Miller

Thanks for that Helen, great perspectives. Again, I think those points align very well in terms of some of the things that we're trying to do across the firm to make sure that we're aligned around those challenges and that we've got specific programs built in to deal with and create additional opportunities especially for our women. So, let me come back to Nina for a moment. Nina, what are some of the things that women can do right now to help lift other women up to higher roles?

Brodersen

Well, I think this is an important question and is also a difficult question. But I think really to Helen’s point before, it's really important that we team, and this network is of the one example of this. Because the higher you go up, the more senior you become in the organization, the less women you actually interact with on the same level. I never really felt discriminated, but there are certain challenges, so I do think it is important that we team and talk about these things. Another kind of basic point that I think is important to reflect on is flexibility. We talk about it all the time, but I somehow do see among my younger colleagues that somehow this flexibility is always just considered as “you should be able to speed up.” But I think it's really important to encourage ourselves. Flexibility also means that you take time to do something that you really like when you can, so that your flexibility goes up and down. It's important to think about this and reflect on your purpose: what do you want to be? And then, I think, at EY, if you're strong enough to take these decisions, EY helps you a lot with this. But then EY is one of the greatest employers to have. But you need to drive your own case. So, I think this is something that we need to talk more about.

Miller

Thanks, Nina. Couldn't agree more. And operationalizing that kind of into our process is key for us to continue to drive strong progress.

Brodersen

There is actually one more point that I thought about. This is really to kind of also talk about this link between seniority and working hours, which is not really there. But everyone still thinks so. This is also important to think about. We are already doing this: developing kind of different partner concepts. These questions are very important especially for women, thinking about myself having two small kids, it might be stressful to think that you have to become a partner within a certain time frame or something like this. You have to build your own case, I think it's really important.

Miller

Great perspective. So, I'm going to ask you both a couple of last questions here. What are some of the things both small and large, that someone has done to support you, whether for career advancement or for work-life balance here at EY? And, what would you prefer that someone do to support you that hasn't happened yet? Let's go to you, Helen. first.

Bentley

Wow, I've had some phenomenal sponsorship and mentorship during my time at the firm, and I think both of those things are equally important. The mentor is there to tell you about the day-to-day, what you're getting right and what needs to be pulled back on track. The sponsor is the person who's looking out for those new opportunities and putting your name in the ring. And what I would encourage any leader to do, whether they are male or female, is to look through your organization and spot that unique talent that might be able to take on a new opportunity and back them, regardless of their gender or any other personal background and focus on what they're bringing to the firm. I think EY has done that for me. They've given me some very unique opportunities that suited my skillsets, and I think I have delivered on those. And Randy, you're a perfect example of this. Because Randy and I, we come from totally different countries. And yet we've met, we’ve worked together. He's come to Tokyo. We've worked together in Singapore, and really, that kind of support, it's not my day-to-day manager, it's someone in the firm, who actually normally I don't interact with, who's spotted me and supported me and I think that's fantastic. That’s something that I really want to do as a leader as well. I think we all have a responsibility to be those sponsors to the new generation of talent, to inspire them and to excite them. What could someone do to support me more? Well, I think Nina's probably walked a path that I would like to walk, in having children. And I think that your lifestyle does change. I know some of my team have children and they’re women, and I thought working from home during COVID-19 would make life easier for them because they wouldn't have to be at the office early in the morning and they didn't have to do client dinners. The feedback that I've got is actually work’s become 10 times harder because everything is in one place, the children have been also learning from home. And I think we probably have to start thinking about how we can support, not just women, but any parent with children to get that balance right. And I hope that maybe I can support that new wave of thought on this and when I have children, then I'll have that support in place from EY. But I'd hand back over to Nina because she has already walked those roads. Nina, have you felt supported by the firm or is there anything from a work-life balance perspective that you’ve struggled with?

Brodersen

It is a struggle, but I always felt great support. My biggest challenge is also the thing that was kind of a little bit difficult in my career is that I, which is also something that I'm really grateful about here is that, I shifted from New York to Hamburg for personal reasons. This was for me, a new sub-service line and a new language, and I did this just when I was eight months pregnant with my second child. This was a little bit crazy. And I'm so grateful that my team in Hamburg took me on board in such a great way, but it was obviously also a big challenge. Because, just at this point, I had my big sponsors in Sweden, the ones that I had worked with for a long time. That was a little bit weird and this is what I have to do now I think. It was so interesting to hear that you talked about this with your sponsor because this is really what I feel that I need to find now my real sponsors in the German firm and kind of build my case, what I want to do. This is also interesting because I obviously want more from this market role, that way I can also use, the knowledge that I have from different sub service lines, different countries and my interest in people and clients. This is what I love. So, this is what I need to figure out now with the help of good sponsors.

Miller

Great. Thank you Nina, and Helen as well. Really appreciate you joining us today and appreciate hearing your insights on our D&I initiatives in the firm and especially around our AM&M Women's Network and also continue to hear about the challenges that you and other women are facing throughout your careers and how we're moving forward to deal with those and overcome.

So, in closing, I'd like to encourage all of you to contribute to the collective efforts toward impactful change on gender equality. And again, we've got aggressive strategies in place on this across EY, and I'll leave you with some suggestions on a couple of those things to make sure we ensure that she belongs. And first that’s making sure we're being very visible in sponsoring and promoting women's achievements. We need to continue to challenge gender stereotypes and implicit biases that exist, and try and drive forward to overcome. Third, making sure we've got strong policies that support women's careers through increased flexibility, care services, especially during these challenging times of COVID-19, and make sure they're adaptable as we move forward, and then a constant advocate for equal pay. So now is the time to go further, to go faster. We want to celebrate International Women's Day with all of us to make sure that she belongs. So again, thanks all for joining. We will talk soon.

Brodersen

Thank you.

Bentley

Thanks a lot, Randy.

Thanks for listening to today's EY Advanced Manufacturing and Mobility Business Minute podcast. We hope you found it engaging and informative. To listen to other business minute podcasts, you can find them at ey.com/ammpodcasts.