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Season 2, Episode 7: Women in Leadership

Headshot of Amy Smyth and Brendan Plessis

In this episode, we talk about Women in Leadership with Amy Smyth, Head of the European Centre of Excellence for Career Management at Right Management, and Brendan Plessis, Executive Vice President at Sompo International and mentor in Lloyd’s of London – Right Management Advance programme.

International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8, but our efforts to promote Gender Equality and create an equal future for all do not stop in March. This year, the theme for International Women’s Day was “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world,” and it celebrated the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the gaps that still remain – and there are still many.

Throughout the podcast, we ask what is “shecession”; why language is so important; what are the strategies that women could use to assert themselves in their careers; what is sponsorship and how is it different from mentorship; why are there some sectors less gender diverse than others and what more can be done to close that gap; why more women aren’t progressing into executive positions; do men and women really lead differently and, how to win a salary negotiation (hint: go for it)!

Visit Right Management’s Workforce Career Management to learn how we’re working with a wide range of clients to design targeted development programmes. Contact us at [email protected]

–Hosts: Roberta Cucchiaro and Dominika Gałusa

This podcast is also available on the following platforms:


Full Transcript

Roberta Cucchiaro: Hi and welcome to the seventh episode of The Transform Talent Podcast. This is Roberta Cucchiaro.

Dominika Gałusa: … And Dominika Gałusa. International Women's Day is celebrated on March 8 but our efforts to promote gender equality and create an equal future for all do not stop in March.

Roberta Cucchiaro: This year, the theme for International Women's Day was “Women in Leadership: Achieving An Equal Future in a COVID-19 World”, and it celebrated the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the gaps that still remain – and there are still many.

Dominika Gałusa: Just to mention a few. Women's employment is 19% more at risk during the pandemic compared to men's. During the first month of the pandemic, the 740 million women who work in the informal economy lost an average of 60% of their income.

Roberta Cucchiaro: We also often hear how women's full and effective participation in leadership in all areas of life drives progress for everyone, yet women are still underrepresented in public life and decision-making.

Dominika Gałusa: Women are also at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19 as frontline and health sector workers, as scientists, doctors and caregivers. Yet they get paid 11% less globally than their male counterparts.

Roberta Cucchiaro: So while the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a chain reaction of setbacks for women around the world, it has also provided an opportunity to raise awareness about gender inequality in the labor market and in the workplace.

Roberta Cucchiaro: Today's episode is focused on women in leadership and we're joined today by Amy Smyth who is the head of the European Center of Excellence for Career Management at Right Management, part of Talent Solutions. Amy has a background in psychology and has extensive experience coaching women in leadership. We are really looking forward to hearing from you, Amy and welcome to the podcast.

Amy Smyth: Thank you, Roberta. I'm absolutely delighted to be here.

Roberta Cucchiaro: We are also joined by Brendan Plessis who is the Executive Vice President at Sompo International. It's a specialty provider of property and casualty insurance and reinsurance. Brendan is highly experienced in the insurance industry and he is currently a mentor in the Lloyd's of London and Right Management Advance Program, a very interesting program driving internal mobility at Lloyd's of London and we'll talk about that later in the podcast as well. So thank you for joining us, Brendan, and welcome.

Brendan Plessis: Thank you, Roberta and Dominika. It's an absolute pleasure and a delight to be here today so thank you very much for having me.

Roberta Cucchiaro: Wonderful. So we're going to start the episode with some questions to you, Amy first. We've heard more and more recently the term “shecession”. It's the pronoun “she” together with the word “recession”, so “shecession” and it's a term that was coined by Nicole Mason. She's the President and Chief Executive of the Institute for Women's Policy Research and the term is used to describe a recession that affects women disproportionately and that's what we have been seeing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. So the question to you is how have women been impacted by this economic and social crisis and what are the long-term consequences of not responding to these issues?

Amy Smyth: You're absolutely right, Roberta. Unfortunately, what we've seen is a real acceleration of the gender gap through the pandemic and that's been seen all over the world in a number of ways. What we see is a real disproportionate effect on women as they are experiencing both a larger fall in earnings, which I think Dominika talked about, and they're losing their jobs in greater numbers than men.

I was reading something just the other day from McKinsey in that female job loss rates were about 1.8 times higher than male job loss rates globally. We can see that it's really disproportionately affecting women and I think there are a number of reasons why that is taking place. I think the first is really about the sectors that COVID-19 has really impacted and when we look at the sectors like hospitality and retail, those are the areas where women are more likely to be employed and they're the ones that are hardest hit by both social distancing and have had to kind of completely stop operations in many instances.

So many women in those sectors have either had to be let go or are currently on furlough, but it's not just about sectors. It's also about the type of employment that women are in and women tend to be in part-time work so if we just take the UK as an example, three-quarters of the part-time workforce is women and in that first kind of few months of the pandemic, so cast your mind back to March last year, we actually saw a 70% decrease in part-time jobs in that first three months. So again, you can see women being disproportionately affected and I think it's not just women in the jobs they've got or in the sectors they've got, but also it's about this kind of unequal share of caregiving responsibilities and unbelievably there are 1.5 billion children out of school worldwide and if any of those listeners on this podcast are like me that are having to juggle a full-time job and to provide education for my children at the same time, they will know that that is quite a tough job and not surprisingly that's having an impact on how women think about their employment and what's really sad is that that translates into about a third of women in the US are now thinking about either leaving the workforce because of these caregiving responsibilities or downshifting their career because of COVID-19.

You can see all of these issues are coming together to really in a kind of storm for women to provide a particularly disproportionate effect on the female workforce. But you ask me about long-term consequences and the question is why should we care, why should we do something about this. Well, if we're thinking about the long-term health of our economy globally, working women in Europe and North America contribute a huge amount, between 35 and 45% of a country's GDP. So if we don't actually address these issues about women's employment, all of us, men and women, will be the poorer for it.

I think there's an estimate that the GDP growth globally could be a trillion dollars lower in 2030 if we don't tackle this. So it's something that's important for all of us in terms of our economic viability as nations to address and I think we can remember that things weren't great before the pandemic frankly for women in the workplace and this is an opportunity. It's an inflection point where organizations can think about how can we create an environment, a flexible way of working, not just for women actually, for men as well, that allows everybody to kind of manage their work and their home responsibilities, but also contribute in a way that is valuable to organizations.

Dominika Gałusa: As Roberta mentioned earlier, and to agree with your point here, women's full and effective participation in leadership in all areas of life is seen as driving progress for everyone, yet women are still underrepresented in public life and decision making and to add more stats to what you just said, women are heads of state or government in only 22 countries. In May 2020, the number of women running Fortune 500 companies hit a "new high" of 37 which is actually only 7% of companies on the 2020 Fortune 500 list. Amy, based on your career and experience, what advice would you give to women and what are the strategies that women could use to assert themselves in their careers?

Amy Smyth: Dominika, I think one of the main ways that women can assert themselves in the workplace, actually and men, is to really take charge of their careers. I say men and women but the reality is that women actually are not as good at this as men are. I've done a lot of work with senior women and I'm always really surprised at the blind spots women have around their careers. So the first thing I would say is: plan your career. I found that even women with a really strong orientation towards achievement, that doesn't mean they have a strong orientation towards proactive career management. I remember reading a study which I was absolutely amazed at but 50% of female CEOs didn't consider being a CEO until someone told them they had it in them.

Now that just gives you an indicator that in many cases even the most successful women are not driving their own careers. Those decisions are being made by them by somebody else. So my first thing is that for women to be much more deliberate with the planning of their careers. When I work with women, how they often articulate how they plan their careers, they sort of ... They say things like, "I'm going to learn and grow and build my capabilities," in a very kind of holistic way. When I work with men, they are very concrete. They say, "I will create opportunities to learn x, gain experience in y, and that's going to allow me to get to this position that I really want to set my sights on."

When I reflect on it, I think ... Women are so great at managing processes, projects in the workplace but yet they don't apply that same logic to themselves when it comes to thinking about their careers. So planning the career like you would any other venture: be specific, set targets, audit your process, and if it isn't working, then change it.

I think the second thing I would say is about courage and risk and I would really encourage women to be less risk-averse. Career advancement requires courage and when I work with women who really reach their career potential, they've often stepped into a sort of less desirable roles, ill-defined roles, but roles that give them an opportunity to learn but also give them visibility. Whenever I'm working with women, I always urge them to think about all the possibilities that are out there. Sometimes it's about taking the road less traveled because that ultimately can lead you to your desired destination much more quickly.

The final thing that I would say to women is about politics and positioning. Women often say to me they don't want to engage in politics in the workplace and as a preference that's absolutely fine but the reality is that most organizations are political entities and unfortunately even the organizations with the best gender policies in the world are always going to be political animals. I think what women really need to focus on is understand how to communicate their success, how to package it, and give it to the right person to notice. Because it doesn't matter how brilliant they are, if they don't actually communicate what they've done and they don't communicate it to the right people, then unfortunately it can't be realized, it can't be recognized, and individuals won't get the kind of career trajectory that they would like.

So in summary Dominika, I would say for women: plan your career, be brave, communicate your achievements. If no one knows what you do, you really can't expect to be rewarded.

Roberta Cucchiaro: Amy, I think that's the best advice I've ever heard in my life so I'm going to use this. Plan, be brave and communicate. I think this is excellent.

I also have a bit of a fun question for you. It comes from personal branding guru Amelia Sordell who recently shared a post on LinkedIn saying, "I am a boss, not a girl boss. I am an entrepreneur, not a female entrepreneur. I am a business owner, not a woman in business. The sooner we drop gender from these phrases, the better, and maybe we should start calling people male entrepreneurs and boy bosses to see how stupid it sounds.” You may agree or not, but I think the language we use inside an organization is key and I am curious to hear what's the first thing that comes to your mind? What do you think about this?

Amy Smyth: Roberta, I actually think the language is really important and whether we like it or not, it communicates our personal assumptions and social norms. I think language in organizations can be really important in maintaining or changing the culture of an organization. I know, I worked with a really male-dominated client and they would start their typical emails with "Gentlemen," even when there was a woman in the team.

I don't think the writer was actually trying to be excluding but the effect it has on the woman that receives that is that she feels like an outsider. I think all of us need to choose our words judiciously and it can be very simple things like instead of saying Chairman to say Chairperson and we know that, actually it's not just a frivolous thing to change. It has real consequences for gender equality because when you look at the research of jobs that are given gender-neutral titles, so even very simple things like replacing a hostess with a flight attendant for instance, makes it much easier for either gender to really imagine themselves in that role. That has real consequences for who is actually going to apply for that role.

When organizations apply kind of gender unbiased language, they are much more likely to get more applications from women and that's a way that organizations can really start to change occupations from being so kind of segregated. So I like you, I agree that language is really important and it is something that we should watch and monitor ourselves to make sure that we are using inclusive language that allows everybody to come to the party essentially.

Roberta Cucchiaro: Absolutely.

Dominika Gałusa: So Brendan, over to you. As we all know, women are overrepresented and underrepresented in different sectors. You have extensive experience working in the insurance sector which just like with STEM jobs and STEM meaning science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, it's still a male-dominated industry. Based on your experience working in Europe and in Asia, what more can be done to improve gender equality in male-dominated industries such as the insurance sector?

Brendan Plessis: I think where we look at the corporate side, I'd go so far as to say the tone from the top is critical. I mean you've got to create the right corporate culture that allows women to progress to executive positions, and that starts at the top. It requires genuine buy-in from the highest levels of the company, becoming ingrained actually at the board level and then through executive committees downwards. Amy talked about management, for example. I also am sadly a bit of a cynic, this doesn't happen overnight and formal processes need to absolutely be instigated and put in place to make this so.

What this will do, which I really like about this stuff, is it's actually going to really create a massive emphasis on personal development and goal setting. You tie that in and we're going to talk about mentoring hopefully in a bit but that's also important and working alongside specific metrics. They need to be developed as senior leaders related to senior-level vacancies and inclusive leadership, workshops, already go hand and hand in neatly.

So to your question, I think what we really need to do is start by looking at the root cause of why there aren't actually more women in senior roles. The key reason is looking at working patterns associated with motherhood which we touched on before, and when women have children, they're much more likely to take on the bulk of childcare and responsibilities and therefore require flexible working arrangements. This could tie me through to part-time roles and in fact, an analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that once you are on reduced hours, it is actually very unlikely that you will progress in terms of wages or promotion. You simply get stuck.

Other studies have shown that there's a widening pay gap between women with children and women without children and in fact, in some countries, it gets worse. There's even evidence of the opposite for men with a fatherhood bonus in pay. There are also studies that have found unconscious bias in how mothers are perceived. They are regarded as less competent and committed than non-mothers. Conversely, fathers are perceived as more competent and committed than non-fathers. So it's really hard for mothers to overcome this without them then being perceived as being less warm and likable which in turn affects promotions. A bit of a vicious circle if you ask me.

So I think looking at how we can reduce the seniority gap substantially across the industries. We need to make it easier for part-time or formerly part-time employees to advance and there are some solutions here. This could be by making more senior jobs explicitly available to part-time. It could be by having more standard, flexible working practices either advertised or encouraged or implemented and then making job shares easier and more attractive too would help.

I also think it's important to allow more rapid advancement opportunities for women who work part-time once they come back to full-time work, particularly if they were considered promising or exceptional before going on maternity leave. But I think we also need to cut through this a little bit further and look at some of the behavioral interventions that can help the level playing field on areas like negotiation or application for job leave assistance that promotes unconscious bias including feedback.

I think these interventions are all at heart about reducing subjectivity and ambiguity in the workplace. So if human bias behavior is driving a gap, then organizational redesign to remove that bias is what will make a difference. It needs to happen. Please note this is not the same as training. The evidence on the impact of training to remove bias I feel is unconvincing. However, there is still a lot we do not know about the specifics of what reduces the seniority gap. This is an ongoing process. Hopefully, that answers your question.

Amy Smyth: Just to build on what Brendan said there because I think he said some really interesting things about how organizations can impact and certainly what we see is that when women come back from maternity leave as Brendan just mentioned, the role of the manager shouldn't be underestimated, particularly the junior and middle management roles. So managers play a huge part in influencing women's career choices, particularly after they return from maternity leave. So making sure that career advice is relevant and when Brendan talked about making sure that more senior jobs can be done part-time is absolutely right because that opens up the possibility of those kind of roles for women and it's creating that ... What I would consider a really strong psychological contract between the manager and the woman. That's what really makes the difference because it's that unwritten trust space agreements about how women get their work done and how they perform that really give women the empowerment, the opportunity, and the courage to go for different opportunities and to go for ways that they can really move up the organization. So I think all the things that Brendan said are absolutely right and management is a key part of making that happen particularly at middle management and lower levels within the organization.

Roberta Cucchiaro: As we mentioned earlier Brendan, you are a mentor in the Lloyd's of London and Right Management Advance Program and you're part of the current and fifth cohort. Right Management has been partnering with Lloyd's of London for a number of years to support the career growth of female leaders within the insurance market. With a historically male-dominated environment, Lloyd's of London had recognized that women were experiencing slow career progression or leaving the sector altogether and therefore wanted to support the development and needs of female employees across the corporation. The Advance Program provides emerging female leaders with both a sponsor and a mentor to drive internal mobility, facilitate connections, and make the most of untapped talent. So this is a great opportunity for the female leaders within the company and the industry. So I would like to ask you Brendan if you could talk a bit more about the program and what results have you seen within the Advance Program in Lloyd's of London and Amy, feel free to jump in as well.

Brendan Plessis: Sure, I'd be delighted to. I'm actually very thrilled, this is the first time I've ever done it, so I'm very new to it and I'll just give you a sense really, sort of a macro view of my findings and then draw down a little bit further.

So let's just face facts. The AVI actually says we're an insurance, we don't actually have a problem attracting women to the insurance industry. Men and women actually enter the profession at the graduate level in equal numbers. But the proportion of women reduces by over 60% when you get to senior levels. That needs to be addressed.

The other thing that needs to be addressed is the gender pay gap. The London market is significantly higher than for the UK overall. In fact, only a quarter of the top earners in the London market are female. This is where this program comes in because mentoring is actually one thing that can help to address this lack of diversity. In this industry, informal mentoring has always had a place in this business but we're starting to see far more formal programs like the Lloyd's Advanced Program, which is designed to improve the pipeline of women within the corporation and the market, the wider market, to a modular-based development program, targeted at women identified as future talent.

So what this program tries to bring together, the three key areas, and I really need a bit of time to focus on, this is mentoring, sponsorship and networking. Now by bringing together a community of female leaders from across the corporation and the market, by supporting them through access to experts and role models who are committed to their professional developments and career progression, and who also offer ongoing network opportunities within the corporation and broader markets. This will enable them to develop the personal attributes, the capabilities, the networks required to really advance their careers as future senior leaders and as such I'm very honored to be part of this.

There are four learning modules during Advance. Now each one is designed to increase self-awareness and develop strengths in areas commonly found to hold female talent back so this is unlocking self-limiting beliefs, it's by creating a sense of personal brand and profile, it's about influencing and navigating stakeholders, and ultimately, some of Amy's earlier comments, negotiating career and success.

I'm relatively new to this, but what I have heard from people who have been through it and having seen it firsthand, everything is very positive, incredibly positive. Elements which have been found to be particularly useful to my mind and to others is the opportunity to put themselves first, give them time to think about their careers. It's the richness of the course, the genuine interaction between the other women enrolled on it, and the opportunity to meet other people in the market and have that networking opportunity, be it through the other participants, be it through the mentors and be it through the sponsors.

Now having a sponsor executive at the company, this actually results in opening up different career paths for people that weren't actually previously aware of in their own organizations. I would also say that the connected structure of the program that starts the feedback process and as I'm going through it right now, going on to unlocking self-limiting beliefs and how to parse through them, it's about creating a personal brand, a communication to stakeholders, and getting them in and teach them really renegotiate their objectives is critical.

I also think the one thing I've seen, the reflection here, it's about learning about oneself, the mentee and the mentor. It makes them bold and more confident, having that self-awareness certainly helps in terms of how the mentees change their perceptions and how they can influence the conversation and progress. So having the space for self-reflection that they have been able to take back to work and just really be their true selves in the workplace is at the core of inclusion

Dominika Gałusa: Brendan, to make sure our listeners understand, could you tell us what is the difference between mentoring and sponsorship and what are the benefits of having mentors from outside the organization?

Brendan Plessis: Absolutely, I would be happy to. So it can often be misunderstood, they're not interchangeable. So just to be very clear on this, mentoring is generally related to providing advice and guidance around key development areas. Mentors may act as a sounding board and make women feel more comfortable but they do not necessarily actually help them get ahead. The sponsor is more personally involved. That's about the mentee's next career steps. The sponsors are typically well-respected individuals, have large networks to help with hiring or career decisions, they look to develop talent and help women get promoted. They have opened conversations, help address how work gets done, and the way performance is measured.

Sponsors also create a culture of conscious inclusion and support and consciously advocate for women in the boardroom but because of this though, we think it's peculiar, but women tend to be over-mentored and under-sponsored. So there's probably some debate in this about whether, "Okay, that mentor should therefore be someone in-house or outsourced." It actually makes a lot of sense to look at a company's internal resources first but maybe using an outside mentor can allow mentees a greater sense of freedom and trust than internal resources can. In fact, one study we looked at, when presented with a choice, many employees would choose a mentor outside their place of business because they didn't have to share any sort of retaliation or disciplinary action should they not like or disagree with their mentor who would be a co-worker or possibly a supervisor or manager in an in-house mentoring program. 

I think the other thing as well ... Certainly, I've discovered from my own experiences as an outside voice is unique. It can provide a very different perspective. I look into thinking and this gets challenged by outside perspectives, certainly like those provided by an external mentor, particularly one who maybe works in a far-field industry. This I think can help drive creativity and innovation and this generally arises by applying proven approaches in an entirely new context. Context is certainly switched when advice or an important consideration comes from an accomplished professional who works in a different field, I find.

Roberta Cucchiaro: I really like what you said about trust as well and it's true. It's easier to discuss your challenges that you are currently facing or get advice when you can speak freely. Also to a mentor, for example, like yourself from outside of the organization, so that makes complete sense.

Amy Smyth: What I would say that I think has been really great about the Lloyd's of London program is creating this kind of specific sponsorship piece because sponsorship programs for women tend to be much more important than for men because men tend to be very good at creating self-appointed sponsors. Because they tend to be better at engineering these kinds of informal situations where they garner support by promoting themselves, talking to that senior person in the canteen or by the coffee machine. They are much better at it than women tend to be. I think Lloyd's of London has done a great job by actually appointing sponsors because women are much more comfortable in those situations when it's a much more formal arrangement and we can't really forget that for women, they often sometimes feel excluded from that kind of informal social structure that works around work for men like going for a drink or playing golf to use a very stereotypical one, but those kind of things create opportunities for men to network with very senior people in their organization and unfortunately, women sometimes don't have access to that. So when an organization like Lloyd's really invests in that kind of thing, it does make a huge difference for women in terms of how they can move up through the organization.

Dominika Gałusa: Brendan, Amy, a question to both of you. While early career talent pools are more likely to be diverse, women, especially women of color, tend to disappear in senior leadership positions. We can see that in a very interesting graph prepared by McKinsey. At the beginning of 2020, there were almost 50% of women in entry-level positions, gradually decreasing to 38% as managers, 33% as directors, 29% as VP, and 21% as C-suite. So why aren't women progressing into executive positions? Is it about lack of training or an unhealthy corporate culture? Is it because of a change of a priorities and the challenges faced when returning to work after maternity leave? If yes, what more can be done to support women?

Amy Smyth: It is really sad actually and things are going backwards, not forwards. I was just reading the latest report on Women Count 2020 and there are more CEOs called Peter than women in the top jobs of the FTSE 100 and if that isn't a depressing statistic, the gender parity, I don't know what is. But I think in terms of getting women into more executive positions, to me the main focus has got to be on getting women the right experience. We've got to focus on what organizations value for senior positions and the reality is the organizations value business, financial and strategic acumen. Unfortunately, even with the very best programs, a concentration on communication, confidence ... That is all great and women absolutely need that, but what they also need, they need to have the critical skills and experience needed for senior positions.

So getting women into roles where they have P&L experience is absolutely critical for them in order to go into very senior roles like Chief Executive Officer. What we see at the moment from the research is that women are just not getting the same opportunities as their male contemporaries in these critical roles. So if you want to get women in the very senior parts of the organization, you've got to have a healthy pipeline of talent that runs throughout the whole organization and what you can't have is women just concentrated in these kind of pink ghettos of marketing and HR and communications because what you see from the evidence is that it's very tough, even for a CHRO, for an HR director, to get promoted into a CEO role. But it's not tough for a Chief Financial Officer to get promoted into a CEO role. So we've got to have women in those pivotal positions, otherwise we're not building a pipeline to the most senior roles on the Executive Board.

Roberta Cucchiaro: I also have for you both actually, it's an age-old question and it's a difficult question, often controversial with a difficult answer and it came to mind when I was actually thinking about our very first episode of this podcast. We did it in September last year with our Chief Talent Scientist here at ManpowerGroup, his name is Thomas Chamorro-Premuzic and he wrote a book called “Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders and How to Fix It”. He talks at length about the challenges women face as well in the workplace and what happens inside this organization, why ... Like what we were talking just now, why we don't see so many women in senior positions.

So the question I have to you is do men and women actually lead differently and who is better and is one of them better than the other? Should there be one better than the other? So I'm just curious to hear what you think about this.

Amy Smyth: I think the research shows that women do lead differently but the differences between men and women are often overblown. They're actually quite small when you look at research, but there is some evidence that women have a more kind of ... I suppose a more participative style and you mentioned this more kind of transformational leadership style. So they do tend to have a kind of more I suppose democratic approach and some research shows that they have an eye on outcomes which are more kind of compassionate and ethical. But I wouldn't want to overplay that because I think actually the differences are smaller than we might believe.

I think the question about who is better very much depends on the context, it depends on a number of things but it is an interesting one at the moment because as a result of COVID-19, I've seen a lot of research out there about leadership, the demand for kind of "empathetic leadership" becoming much more common and you would ... On the surface that would mean that that's more aiming towards a kind of "female" style leadership and I think the other thing, it also depends on who is being led. We talk about leadership but we often don't talk about the followers and followers are important in this context.

When you look at younger generations, Generation Z downwards, they do expect a more inclusive style of leadership. They expect to be consulted and they expect more leaders to chip transparency. In some ways, a woman's leadership is very synced to that I would say but again, I think we can overestimate the differences between men and women and it is to a certain degree about individuals and how they decide to lead. I would hate to make the argument on this podcast that women ... In a blank way are better than men because certainly in my experience, that hasn't been the case.

Roberta Cucchiaro: It is about competencies at the end.

Amy Smyth: It is, and of course it is about your ability to be sensitive to what individuals need within that particular moment and certainly I've had men bosses that have been brilliant at that and I've had female bosses that haven't been very good at that. That's why I say it is about the context individuals are leading within and also what the organization believes good leadership looks like, and that does differ between organizations and that will suit different people and to some extent, different genders.

Brendan Plessis: I don't think there's a simple answer to who's better at leading, men or women. People, men and women, we are all individuals, we are all very, very different. However, and this is probably testing the fact that probably the better part of the last five years I've been mentored by a woman and there's some traits which I've seen are really gender-specific. This has kind of instilled in me my desire to develop my own emotional and cultural intelligence. I think when you talk about empathetic leadership Amy, this emotional intelligence, this ability to be aware of control, express emotions, and to be able to handle relationships with empathy, I do feel that women tend to be a lot better at this than men. In fact, I think many men could learn a thing or two in this area, myself included sometimes. I think an employee leader with emotional intelligence is likely to be more successful than someone without it because they're able to explain their thought processes and navigate relationships and be more liked.

I think there also are important elements that come with that, including self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship management, things we talked about today. Cultural intelligence, again to my travels. It's people's ability to relate well in culture-diverse situations. This sets them apart. I say this is probably a bit more balanced between the genders but it has equal weight. I think if a leader has cultural intelligence, I think they're more ready to effectively lead a more culturally diverse people, I really do. Similarly, cultural intelligence measures an outsider's ability to come into the culture workplace and then easily fits well within the team. Package it up together with emotional intelligence, you're a total winner. I think it builds trust between colleagues and management and team.

Dominika Gałusa: So a last question to you both. Knowing that we have a lot of women tuning into our podcast, based on your experience and you've already touched upon this topic at the beginning Amy, what is your advice for promotion and pay negotiation for women in all career stages? Many women might be intimidated by these conversations, but based on what we just talked about, we know that there is a huge pay gap between men and women. So how to initiate those conversations and how to make the right connections within an organization to get what you want?

Amy Smyth: The first thing I would say is modesty is an overrated virtue. I've said this before, but it really is naïve for any of us, forget men or women, any of us to believe that anyone else is going to be focused on your achievements or indeed communicate them. That really is up to you. If you don't communicate what you've done, you really can't hope to get rewarded. The main thing I say to women is don't be modest and ask. Have the confidence to put yourself out there because if you don't ask, you've missed an opportunity really.

The other thing I'll say is how do you prepare to ask because I think women like to feel prepared for these kind of things and what I find is women are really good at gathering evidence but they don't necessarily always communicate it in the most compelling way. So making sure that ... When you're going into these situations, you really articulate what you specifically contributed to success and I often hear women downplay their achievements, they say, "Oh, it was nothing," or, "Oh, it was just part of the job." I often say, "Don't say that because if you say that, then you undermine your argument for having that promotion or having that pay rise."

So making sure that you communicate your achievements effectively and also package them around things that matter to that organization. So organizations tend to focus on things like savings on time, savings on money, contribution to revenue growth. If you communicate your achievements through that lens, then that is much more likely to land effectively with your boss and it's much more likely for them to be able to fight your corner up through the organization for that promotion or for that pay rise.

Roberta Cucchiaro: And Brendan, I'd love to hear your thoughts as well.

Brendan Plessis: Well I think the single best piece of advice I can give is just don't undervalue yourself. Believe in your worth. Every year I have appraised feedback, conversations with men and women as part of their progress monitoring and career development and almost without exception ... The guys will raise a question “Would they receive a pay rise?”. I think almost without exception women will not. I also think men are going to be more likely to question about and push for a promotion. I think what women really need to do is be much more on the front foot in this regard. If you think you deserve a pay rise or a promotion, ask for it. Open the dialogue rather than wait for someone to offer it to you.

Amy Smyth: I think that's brilliant what Brendan just said and it's so true and just ... There is a cost for not asking. I looked at some U.S. research and it found that women who didn't negotiate their first salary stand to lose more than $500,000 by age 60. So there is a cost to it and women who consistently negotiate, they can add up to $1,000,000 onto their salary for the lifetime of employment. So for all the women out there, there is a cost to not asking and when you know the value of it, just that bit of discomfort that you might have in that meeting could really mean something in your career over your lifetime. So I encourage everybody, everyone who's having a career conversation or a salary conversation now, ask for a raise.

Roberta Cucchiaro: Best advice ever. Actually, it's been an amazing conversation. Really interesting and I think my favorite keywords from this are: plan, be brave, communicate, forget modesty, I love that, do not undervalue yourself and be compelling. To sum all of this up, also be able to create an environment in the workplace which is open to all and makes everyone feel like they're part of the team equally. So it's been a really inspiring conversation. Thank you so much but before I let you go I have a very last question and if you've heard the other episodes you know what's coming and I love asking this question to people that have a background in psychology because you guys have the best answers always. If you were stranded on a desert island and you could only have three things, what would you have with you?

Brendan Plessis: Simple. My wife, kids and dog.

Roberta Cucchiaro: Perfect.

Amy Smyth: I would say a radio, a library of books, and my family.

Roberta Cucchiaro: Perfect. Love it. Thank you so much for joining us today on our seventh episode of The Transform Talent Podcast. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did and to all our listeners, don't forget to subscribe in your favorite podcast listening app and leave us a review. Stay tuned and see you the next episode. Bye!

Dominika Gałusa: Bye bye.

Brendan Plessis: Bye bye.

Bye bye