Following TM’s March feature discussing gender imbalance in UK boardrooms Glenda Roberts, group sales director at industrial fastenings manufacturer, TR Fastenings called up to give her views on the issue and on the suggestion that quotas might be introduced to fix the problem.
Read the article that provoked Glenda’s response here.
TM: What is your career background and have you felt that your progress has been different from colleagues because you are a woman?
GR: I joined TR around 21 years ago and came straight in as a director which was both unusual and quite difficult.
At first I met with absolute opposition in from some people, not only because of standing out as a woman, but also because my background was in FMCG and I didn’t have a strong technical grounding in manufacturing nuts and bolts.
I didn’t resent that last part particularly; in order to sell you really have to know your product.
Luckily one of the other directors firmly stood behind my potential and acted as something of a mentor to me. I think mentoring is very important. He was very patient in explaining technical issues for me.
Frustratingly though, giving me support was sometimes made difficult by the fact that colleagues couldn’t understand his interest and his attitude was misconstrued by some.
It is a shame, but to be realistic about career progression for women in industry, it is probably true to say that you will always have to work ten per cent harder than male peers to get what you want.
TM: Is there an approach to career progression that you would recommend to other women in industry.
GR: It is all about work ethic. Never expect anything to be handed to you on a plate.
I spoke about mentoring before, and that is important. But you have to show your superiors something to make them feel you are worth mentoring. I wouldn’t mentor a female employee just for the sake of it. You want to see something special in them.
I also think that women sometimes don’t plan well enough. You should step up and decide what you want to do and then plot out the actions you need to take to get there.
TM: Will the prospect of having children inevitably mean that fewer women make it to senior positions.
GR: It is difficult to juggle the responsibilities. Built those who do manage it stand out a mile and deserve to be recognised.
Speaking personally, I had two children when I was 19 and 20 – much to my parent’s annoyance. This really arrested my education and could have stopped me having a successful career. But I decided that it wouldn’t.
I have a low tolerance level for those who expect too much special treatment. I believe that if women want to be considered equals in the workplace then the best women must be benchmarked against men.
You have to fight for success.
TM: So you don’t feel that the introduction of quotas for women on boards would bring be a helpful step in creating better balance across senior position in UK companies?
GR: Absolutely not. For a start, legislation won’t change prejudice – if that is the issue.
More importantly though, I would not want to encourage a situation where women are awarded board level positions simply to sit there as token gestures.
This would simply lead to weak boards and in the current economic environment this would be extremely damaging. We need strong boards now.