International Women’s Day is a celebration of the many progresses, successes, and headways women have achieved both inside and outside of the workplace.
At Phaidon International we are uniquely positioned in that we are able to influence the hiring strategies of all organizations we work with daily, ultimately impacting their culture, which is why it is crucial that we check in with ourselves on how we too are ‘Breaking the Bias’ – this year’s IWD theme.
Breaking the Bias
As a high-performance and growing business, we find ourselves in an exciting phase of our journey. With over 1000 employees globally, around 50% of our workforce are female. Our continued commitment to retaining and developing the best talent has meant that 2021 saw 45% of all our promotions globally awarded to women, with 60% taking place in our offices in Asia.
Globally, women make up 31% of our management population. In the US, that number grows to 37%, and in APAC - 42%.
We recognize that we have work to do and continue our commitment to supporting a more balanced, inclusive and evolving workforce through initiatives such as increased investment in development, formalized talent identification, ED&I employee forums, and most recently the introduction of our enhanced parental leave and pay policy available to our employees globally.
International Women’s Day is also the perfect opportunity to celebrate the inspiring women at Phaidon International. This year, in 2022, we spoke to 22 female pioneers throughout the business, asking how they break bias and what advice they’d give their younger selves.
Aishling Lanigan, Digital Marketing Manager at Phaidon International – Europe
With every decision I make, both in my personal and professional life, I want to understand why I made it, what factors were involved, and if I’m happy with my decision. The aim is to eliminate any hidden biases that may be there. I understand that we can’t change how others behave, but we can take responsibility for our thoughts, behaviours, and actions. If we continuously break the bias, we can lead by example.
International Women’s Day is a celebration of women and all our achievements. In history, and across all cultures, women had to ubiquitously fight for the same political, social, and legal rights as men. I’m taking a moment to give a voice to all the forgotten and trailblazing women who overcame adversity and changed the world – without them, I wouldn’t be standing here today.
Karmen Ledgister, Operations Manager at Phaidon International – Europe
I feel incredibly honoured to have been recognised as a champion of women, especially when I find myself being surrounded by so many inspiring women each day. To me, a champion is someone that leads from the front, provides a voice to those who might find it difficult to be heard, and has an opinion; to be recognised means that I embody these qualities, which is something that I strive for.
From a professional standpoint, I’m not afraid to take up space, both physically and metaphorically, and I encourage others to do so as well. This concept is reminiscent of the UK writer and performance based artist, Vanessa Kisuule, with a line from her poem Take Up Space, “we are walking pillars of defiance, in every exhale of breadth. Take up space, in any way you choose.” Outside of work, I am a coach at a female only strength gym, empowering women from all walks of life to be the very best versions of themselves and take up space.
Karima Jibril, Learning and Development Consultant, Phaidon International – US
I strive to emulate the strong women I admire and those who have been so impactful in my life, both personally and professionally. As I’ve evolved in the business, it’s vital to be seen as a leader whom others can look up to and receive support in turn.
When I first joined Phaidon International, I was the only female on my immediate team. It would have been easy to shrink myself down to fit the mould, but I found huge success in doing the polar opposite. I was incredibly lucky to join a team, and a business, that made me feel comfortable from the get-go and allowed me to flourish, especially since this was in the formative stages of my career. Today, I’m confident in standing up and making my voice heard.
Kitty Lau, Talent Acquisition Consultant at Phaidon International – APAC
It’s never been more important for women to be equally represented throughout business. Everybody should have equal opportunities to be themselves and do what they love. We deserve a gender inclusive world that is free from bias and discrimination, where our differences are valued and celebrated, regardless of identity.
In the talent space, each candidate has the right to be interviewed irrespective of their background, religion, age, and so on. As a talent expert, I actively encourage female candidates to speak up because I want them to succeed, and this could help us achieve a real breakthrough. I focus on making a real difference by eliminating unconscious bias at every stage of the talent cycle, which could be in the form of presenting potential candidates in front of stakeholders to using neutral language in job descriptions.
Susan Lee, SVP Strategic Client Advisor at Phaidon International – US
My answer to breaking down biases is geared to both a professional and personal setting. It’s fundamental to know that we don’t all have the same shared experiences, upbringings, and cultures as we go through life. That’s why patience is key. Say for example an individual might not have the same understanding that maybe you do, or the next person does, or perhaps you might need to recognise that you fall short somewhere along the line, by actively listening, educating ourselves, and being patient, we can spot these biases and be a force for change.
In the talent space, it’s about having tricky conversations with clients to help them better understand what ED&I means. By opening a dialogue to dive deeper and ask these hard-hitting questions I’m making the targeted search process more fair, equitable, and a better service for our clients.
Brianne Toole, Vice President at Selby Jennings – Europe
When starting my career, one of the ways I tried to get ahead was being at the top of the leader board, which is easier said than done, but I felt this was best to earn respect. As a manager in the business, I try to identify an individual who constantly isn’t the most vocal in the room to recommend them for a shout out. This makes sure they don’t fly under the radar and gives them the recognition that they deserve, and a voice which is empowering. We’ve developed a training scheme that puts forward new associate consultants who are about to manage or have aspirations to.
Biases can be part and parcel of financial services, so as a talent specialist, we try and collate balanced shortlists to make an extra effort to put forward a candidate from a diverse background. On the client side, we make sure to provide a consultative service and impel them to run a fair and balanced interview process.
Nicole Mahoney, Vice President – Head of Life and Annuity Actuarial at Selby Jennings – US
I make it my mission to break down barriers and highlight women across the business that can easily go unnoticed. I treat everyone equally to ensure that we’re all on the same playing field.
From a personal standpoint, I love to read self-help books because they provide a glimpse into some of the behaviours I may or may not have. After reading Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, a cultural movement book by American business executive and philanthropist Sheryl Sandberg, it got me thinking about leaning in. This book alters the conversation on gender parity, as not something written into legislation or mandates, but how we act and behave. This book has shaped my life and today, I work hard to take a leap of faith and make my presence known.
Yuqi Ding, Senior Consultant – Asset Management at Selby Jennings – APAC
It’s vital for the talent acquisition process and teams I manage to have diverse voices. Fairness in hiring and shortlisting a diverse candidate pool helps put us on the road to gender equality. But I ty to go one step further, by advising my clients to structure their interviews based on skill questions to combat implicit bias.
Resilience is the perfect remedy for success. In the face of high demands, changing experiences, and societal pressures, among others, I believe it’s important to have a strong grip on resilience, as this can help drive our successes. Failure is part and parcel of our working lives, but it’s how we address our mistakes and learn from them that truly matters.
Monique Lui, Principal Recruitment Consultant at DSJ Global – APAC
International Women’s Day is so important. It’s the chance to collectively come together, share our experiences, and be an enabler of change, so we can inch closer to forging an equal world for all.
Sitting in the DSJ Global team, and alongside other inspirational women, we promote equality in the talent acquisition process and strive to eliminate gendered stereotypes. Gender should never come into play or be a determining factor of our performance. To me, actions speak louder than words. This directive is something that I follow every day, by leading from the front, raising awareness for gender issues.
Sasha Schuster, Principal Consultant at DSJ Global – US
The lack of women in leadership, particularly young women, can often forge a greater wedge between demographics and create a scarcity of role models.
In the supply chain function, I specialise in securing talent for tech hardware companies which is, no shadow of a doubt, a male dominated industry. Arguably, within the electric vehicles and automotive specialism, talented females make up only 20% of the sector. Today, I’ve flipped the script and secured 50% male and 50% female placements. Not only do I place a real emphasis on motivating and connecting women with mentors, but it’s my purpose to get women in front of hiring managers and to have a seat at the table.
Yacine Fall, Associate Vice President at DSJ Global – Europe
At DSJ Global we ensure that we follow a diverse hiring strategy internally. To create an inclusive and diverse working environment we need to hold ourselves accountable and reflect on the decisions that we make on a daily basis. If we can do this successfully internally it means it’s easier for us to truly do this externally for our clients. Internally we’re proud of the differences that we have in ages, nationalities, and genders, among others, which I think also reflects the Berlin population really well.
Historically a lot of the areas we work in at DSJ Global have been more male dominated disciplines. It has been a pleasure to work alongside our clients who are committed to a more diverse hiring strategy. Our role as talent specialists transcends acquisition – we must act as an advisor in the space, opening up a dialogue to have these difficult conversations and challenge internal biases. With the candidate market being competitive, the best talents are able to choose which company they want to join and, a lot of times, this decisions is based on a company’s culture. To have a competitive edge, businesses need to be diverse and inclusive and we can support them in that.
Amy Bater, Senior Recruitment Consultant at EPM Scientific – Europe
When thinking about biases in and out of the workplace, one example from my childhood stood out to me. Glancing back to my days as a deputy head girl, I remember we were asked to participate in a radio show, but during this interview I felt overshadowed. Perhaps it was unintentional that the questions weren’t directed at me, or that my male counterpart shouted louder, but this experience struck a chord and made me feel that my opinions were invalidated.
Since then, this has made me challenge biases, which can be a real barrier in the workplace. Whether that’s having a voice, speaking up for what I believe in, to reassuring myself and others that we can achieve anything we put our minds to, these actions push the needle and create greater inclusivity. Looking back to when I felt that I couldn’t speak up as a woman has undoubtedly changed my values and attitude – today, I proactively make it an obligation to eradicate biases.
Eliana Zago, Principal Consultant at EPM Scientific – Europe
Everyone wins when we uplift those around us. I therefore make it my mission to be a support network, personally and in a professional setting, because I had this when I joined EPM Scientific. Before my first day, I was enrolled onto an internal mentorship program and matched to a female consultant at one of our sister brands. For me, this experience was crucial, not only because of all the support and encouragement I received from day one, but because representation truly matters.
Having that physical representation from an individual who embodied my values and beliefs was paramount when first entering the company. Today, as a leader in the business, I strive to replicate this experience through the open culture I’ve worked hard to create and in the teams I manage. From encouraging inclusivity, shouting out the little wins, to making sure to check-in with each employee on a daily basis, I’m proud of the support network I’ve garnered and to break down biases along the way.
Hannah Wyllie, Principal Pharmacovigilance Recruitment Consultant at EPM Scientific – US
EPM Scientific has provided endless opportunities for growth; a merit-based structure that leaves it open to me to achieve my growth trajectory. There are plenty of women in the business who are crushing it today, but one example is Thea Ordonez, Quality Consultant at EPM Scientific, who I’m sure will be here next year.
Gender equality needs to be inclusive and intersectional. In my profession, I work to remove passive or submissive language in my vocabulary, because when it comes to gender, that should have nothing to do with our linguistics or successes. I try to be a champion for my candidates, clients, and colleagues. There is great power as you climb, but it’s the responsibility of today’s leaders to ensure that deserving individuals have a seat at the table, to leverage diversity of thought and experience.
Anna Burchell, Senior Contracts Consultant – Freelance Medical Communications at EPM Scientific – Europe
I’m not afraid to speak up and say that I’m a successful female. I’ve worked tirelessly to get to the place where I’m at today, but it can feel at times like women have many obstacles to overcome to reach their definition of success.
Although we’re on a path to progression, we still have a long way to go to break down biases and forge an equal world for all. That’s why having these conversations is crucial, whether that’s opening a dialogue with loved ones, our colleagues, or clients. Whatever stage you find yourself in a respective career, perhaps you’ve reached an Associate level, or you’ve just started out on a career path, don’t forget to always speak up and trust in the process.
Joey Lim, Principal Consultant – Healthcare and Lifesciences, EPM Scientific – APAC
I’ve been part of the talent space for 5 years and, in this time, I’ve learnt the tell-tale signs of when biases occur and what you can do about them. Bias can take many forms, from implicit bias to conscious bias, and these ascribed attributes can directly feed into how an individual interacts and communicates with others. For example, if a business is looking to hire an English-speaking candidate, unconscious biases might prejudice interview stages or CV screenings. This broad spectrum of biases can create a negative environment that allow for egregious imbalances to take shape, causing a discrepancy between demographics, genders, or generations.
How do we combat such pressing issues? One way could be through weekly or monthly training sessions. Developing an awareness of unconscious biases within an organisation and providing the concrete tools for individuals to alter their behaviour can help prevent discrimination. Additionally, diversity and inclusion programmes can prove beneficial by getting colleagues to work together and foster better opportunities for all.
Ever since a young age I loved playing football and was fortunate enough, before my injury, to play professionally for the UK at 16 years old. Yet, from the ages of 4-13 I was the only female player. In my entire life I have been in an environment where I’ve always stood out. This mantra of breaking down barriers and proving that females can do it too has stuck and become part of my DNA. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, or what your gender is, if you’re passionate about something then go for it, and this has helped me in a professional environment.
Talent acquisition is naturally a fast-paced, meteoric world where the best rise to the top, and this is the same in sport. As soon as I walked into the LVI Associates business I naturally felt at home, despite the construction industry I operate in being heavily male dominated. Unconscious stigma has always prevailed; even at a young age, females are pigeonholed to play with the dolls and males with the diggers. This doesn’t work in the real world, but in the case of construction, perhaps female talent have previously steered away from the sector because of the lack of representation – it takes visibility for individuals to go after something they can see. For me, I’m trying to have conversations with the C-Suite and Vice Presidents about their statistics within the business and I’m also looking to start a podcast and open a dialogue with all the female figureheads in the industry to move the dial forward.
Lucy Loomes, Vice President – Head of Multifamily, Commercial, and Hospitality Construction at LVI Associates – EMEA
Piper Newhall, Associate Vice President – Head of Power Delivery Engineering at LVI Associates – US
I’m always on the pulse when it comes to gender equality and inclusion, particularly in a male dominated field. I place real importance on increasing comradery between females and identifying that with hard work, confidence, and a positive mindset, you can accomplish anything.
Regarding talent acquisition, I take responsibility in recognising gender-bias when meeting with clients. When partnering with industry-leading clients, it is crucial for me to gain an understanding of what each company does to strive for diversity in the workplace. Most recently, I created a Women in Engineering LinkedIn group, where pioneering women can come together to work towards a less biased industry. I felt this resource was lacking in the industry, so I took responsibility in creating a safe space for talented women to share experiences and speak freely.
Sarah Lazar, Principal Consultant – Forensic Structural & Building Enclosures at LVI Associates – Europe
In my professional and personal life, I strive to create a space that is free of bias, which is why I’ve started a 30-women powerhouse netball team within the business. As we’re a rapidly growing talent partner with offices spanning across the world, it’s hard to get the opportunity to cross paths with all the amazing women in the company. A netball team is a great way to get together and meet other inspirational women at all seniority levels and uplift one another. Psychical health is so important, and from a mental health standpoint, sports are proven to enhance our overall wellbeing.
Being in a male dominated industry it’s incredibly important to have strong female voices and role models; I had them coming into LVI Associates and it’s empowering to know that I am one. I always remind myself that the direction we’re going in has so much more importance than speed. Working hard, making marginal changes, and sharing your voice will lead to the person that you become; there’s beauty in taking the long route. Trust in your direction instead of rushing to your destination.
Christy Ip, Recruitment Consultant – IT Sales at Glocomms – Europe
Differences in backgrounds, perspectives, and learnings is key outside and inside the workplace. Cultural diversity is imperative at every aspect of life, it deepens empathy and builds confidence. Celebrating our differences is a force of unity, one that enhances collaboration and broadens our own personal experiences. As a woman from a minority background, I honour my cultural differences – they don’t set me back but are a personal strength.
I leverage my differences by challenging cultural stereotypes. Some assume that I have to behave a certain way because of my culture and background, but by opening a dialogue to educate my peers and share personal experiences, this helps break down biases in the process. I’m also extending these values into the tech industry by focusing on attracting and securing more female talent, which I hope can help propel women ahead.
Madison Roth, Principal Consultant at Glocomms – US
I try to break down biases through a twofold approach – to be an ally and advocate of women. Despite best intentions, we are all subject to biases, which is why I take action by speaking up, volunteering for initiatives, listening and learning, and asking for feedback.
It's crucial to be approachable. I want my peers and clients to know that they can count on me for anything, whether that’s in the form of interview guidance, candidate feedback, and so on. For me, I try to act as a pillar to uplift women and provide support, and this is something I’ve applied to the technology talent space, creating a space for others to thrive.
Villory Rijker, Regulatory Consultant at Larson Maddox – US
Being chosen for this nomination means so much to me. In a way, it’s a step in the right direction toward providing women with a platform to share our goals and be part of a more inclusive world. This nomination also proves that we are that much closer to breaking the bias in the workplace - something that I strive to do daily by keeping inclusivity and diversity as a core value and having my pipeline reflect that.
Working in the regulatory and legal market, I am constantly exposed to the male-dominated culture of the industry. Through this nomination, I hope that other women will see how important it is to speak out and up against the biases we are exposed to on a regular basis. I’ve found that at times it's easier to stay silent in the workplace, but if I’ve learned anything, it’s that our words hold so much power and breaking bias cannot be achieved through silence.