Strengthening self-awareness and confidence.
It’s no secret that our industry needs to make strides in retaining and progressing a greater diversity of people. This is also something that is important to us as a firm.
Part of our effort in this area has been through our ongoing Women’s Development Programme (WDP).
What is it about?
The programme aims to strengthen self-awareness and confidence among women in the firm, as well as creating a learning environment where delegates can test out limiting beliefs and gain feedback from colleagues to help their professional development.
The WDP also provides an opportunity to explore topics such as networking, career development, personal branding and work-life balance. Delegates have a partner or director to sponsor and support them through the process, meaning our senior management are also engaged with the programme.
Here are some thoughts from some of our previous WDP participants.
How did you feel about the programme before taking part, and did it change after you got involved?
Ruth Kelly Waskett, Associate Daylighting Designer, London
I was looking forward to meeting new people from around the business and seeing what I could learn from the programme. I did have some reservations about it, though. There was a thought along the lines of, “why do we need a separate management development programme for women?”.
This changed once I started the programme and my understanding grew. Now I know that, because we are not starting from a level playing field, programmes such as this are absolutely necessary. Without programmes aimed specifically at women, we will not achieve gender equality in our leadership. This is across the board, not just Hoare Lea, and not just in our sector. The same principle applies to all forms of discrimination, be it gender, race, disability and so on.
Kerry Parish, Senior Finance Coordinator, Plymouth
I was initially worried that the programme would be aimed at engineers and that I wouldn’t be good enough. Thankfully, my mentors encouraged me to take a chance, and helped me realise that it’s up to me to take charge of my own career progression.
Now that my children are getting older, I want to take more time to focus on my career. In a way it feels like the WDP came at the right time and, even though I work part-time, offered the tools to empower me to drive my own career.
During the programme I was surprised to learn how much respect there is for people in support roles. Our coach was great at ensuring everyone’s voice is heard, and helped us feel confident with our own opinions. I think many of us had personal breakthroughs and sharing these moments brought us close together as a group. During the programme I’ve truly experience some life-time high points in my self-confidence.
Jenny Priest, Principal Electrical Engineer, Birmingham
Before taking part, I was a little unsure how beneficial it would be. This changed completely once I’d taken part and I would highly recommend it. Although the WPD is, naturally, aimed at women, I don’t think the lessons learned are exclusive to women. I’d love to see more programmes like these for others throughout the firm.
Were there any modules that stood out to you or that you found particularly valuable?
I found the module that focussed on business development valuable, because it helped me to develop my understanding of what ‘business development’ really is and isn’t. For example, I now see networking as a two-way street. It is not about selling someone something, it’s about solving problems. If someone needs something and your business can offer a solution, then everyone wins.
For one module, we had to get as many people as possible to complete an anonymous ‘360 degree’ survey about us. The feedback enabled me to understand my value as an individual and how I contribute to the firm’s success.
Another module focused on emotional intelligence, i.e. self-awareness, social awareness and having the courage to acknowledge weaknesses. We learned about the different ways people can work together, such as viewing problems on a micro or macro level. We also reflected on how our interactions with others can be heavily influenced by the amount of pressure we are under. All of it is vital to consider when dealing with conflict resolution.
Building self-awareness was a real eye-opener for me. There were aspects of myself that I saw as a weakness (such as being an introvert), but which applied to many others and, in fact, can actually be viewed as a strength. I always thought that I had to change myself in order to progress, but this module turned that on its head and valued the positive aspects of my personality.
We also covered the ‘imposter phenomenon’: the voice inside our heads that criticises our beliefs and values. I came out with a much better understanding of myself and it led to a lot of self-reflection about how I react in certain situations.
Is there anything you learned that has been particularly impactful?
My key take-home message from the WDP is that improving gender diversity at senior levels is not for the benefit of women, it’s for everyone’s benefit; greater diversity makes for a better workplace overall. Ultimately, it’s good for our business, both within Hoare Lea and in the sector as a whole.
Being part of the WDP cohort has done wonders for my self-confidence. To borrow a favourite quote of mine:
“Promise me that you’ll always remember that you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”
– Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh
For me, the biggest impact by far was the realisation that the ability to ask for help and to discuss how you feel is a strength, not a weakness.