Totum’s Marketing and Project Manager Sarah Broad provides some personal tips on succeeding as a woman in business. She shares insights on gender equality taken from her time as a contemporary dancer to when she joined the business world of professional services, working both at Totum and in senior operations roles in professional services firms.

International Women’s Day (IWD) is an important opportunity to reflect on progress we have made in improving equality of opportunity to women across society, and to consider what still needs to be achieved. But, to my mind, what is sometimes lacking is the practical and specific guidance that can make a difference to a woman’s day-to-day life and career decisions. I hope my suggestions on succeeding as a woman in business might go a little way to help meet that need.

Succeeding as a woman in business - tips from Sarah Broad

Experience to share

In my career before Totum, I trained as a dancer, taking a degree in dance, before later moving into business services in the professional services sector, working up to Senior Operations Manager for both BDO & EY, developing effective people, recruitment and resourcing operations.

Throughout it all I have always been particularly interested in Diversity & Inclusion (D&I), from my dissertation back when I did my dance degree – ‘The role of the female body and the female dancer’s body in Western society’ – through to my later CIPD dissertation – ‘Gender diversity: Where we are and where we are going?’. Implementing strategies to improve diversity and workplace flexibility has made up a big part of my professional life.

Gender equality

I’ve had a pretty varied career and enjoyed opportunities to develop in lots of different areas of my life. I now relish the fact that I work for a recruitment firm that has many women at every level of seniority and enjoys a 50/50 male/female split at leadership/Director level.

I know this doesn’t translate to every other sector or workplace, and because of my interest and work in D&I, I’m more than familiar with the prevailing biases and cultural norms that can limit people’s potential due to their ethnicity, gender, sexuality and/or religion. But I do think I’ve been given some brilliant advice along the way from both men and women, and a few things that I have learned myself through trial and error, that have really helped me progress my career.

Tips to support your career growth

I wanted to share these thoughts with you so that they might help you in the same way they helped me in succeeding as a woman in business:

  1. Know what you want and share your intent with those who have the power to open doors for you. If you don’t tell people your career goals, or let them know there’s project you want to work on, don’t be surprised if you miss out on the opportunities you want. For example, if you would like to work towards being a manager or director of a business services function, identify the skills you will need and ask for help to gain them.
  2. Get better at self-promotion – this doesn’t mean you need to start bragging about yourself. Rather it’s an approach in which you share with people what you’re going to do, and then tell them when and how you’ve done it. Don’t assume others will know what you’ve achieved if you say nothing.
  3. Be as flexible as you would want your employer to be for you. Yes, you may need flexible working hours – and hybrid working is now commonplace – but flexibility shouldn’t mean a rigid mindset that prevents you from going the extra mile if you need to. Going out of your way to help your firm complete an urgent pitch, or such like, is exactly how you stand out and impress those who count.
  4. In a hybrid workplace, make sure you’re still seen and heard. Whether it’s in person at the office, on the phone, and/or on a Teams/Zoom call, make sure you’re known across all channels. If you have an idea, no matter whether it sits in your particular remit or beyond, call up the relevant person and mention it. You won’t get very far by waiting for things to happen.

Over the years, I have seen opportunities for women getting better – in some areas more than others. Suffice to say the work to improve diversity goes on.

In the meantime, however, I hope my tips will help provide the impetus to improve your working life both today and into the future.

If you would like to know anything more about our diversity and inclusion commitment at Totum, you can access our latest diversity report here.

In recognition of IWD, we shall be recording and publishing a series of podcasts featuring insights and advice from successful women leaders across the professional services sector. Sign up to our newsletter at Totum’s Knowledge Hub, to be the first to hear them.

If you would like to chat about any other aspect of Totum, you can contact Sarah at [email protected].


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