Interview with Lara Gratton, The SR Group

Frazer Jones is proud to be supporting International Women's Day 2017. We have interviewed a series of our female clients asking them how they have been bold for change #BeBoldForChange

Frazer Jones interviewed Lara Gratton, HR Director at The SR Group.

Lara Gratton

What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
I think there are many. There are some influences well before women ever reach the workplace – at home, in the (often unconscious) gender biased language we use with children, the school curriculum, and the capacity of the media to shape ideas about what strong leadership is and define the behaviours deemed critical for success.

I listen to my 6 year old talking about her aspirations to be a black belt kick-boxer, run the country (apparently we'd all get a unicorn) an explorer and a teacher (on the days she doesn’t want to be a You-Tuber or a fossil hunter, obviously). In her world, all of those things are entirely possible*, yet somehow those ideas get squashed along the way and even young girls start to get the message that they can't, or that certain jobs aren’t for them. I hear it even in primary school children.

We need to encourage girls to think big and to provide early leadership opportunities, at home, at school, through role modelling and through better relationships between education and business - to stem the erosion of ambition and to cultivate a variety of leadership identities which value difference. That means including boys, though - not alienating them.

*except, possibly the unicorn….

How do you achieve work life balance?
I achieve this periodically and commend myself when I notice that it has happened. Alternatively, I multitask with varying degrees of success, roll my eyes at Siri and default to a just-in-time strategy when all else fails (mostly daily). Technology is my saviour and my nemesis. I'm a perfectionist and a completer finisher, which as a working parent I now realise are some of the least useful attributes you can be blessed with.

Apparently I have signed up to do my first half marathon with some of my lovely work colleagues, which has confirmed my already obvious mid-life crisis to anyone who ever knew me in the first 40 (ish) relatively exercise-free years of my life. The fitness aspect of the training is handy. The mental health aspect of it is a revelation to me. The fact that my children now push me out the door for a run suggests that I am probably nicer to be around when I do it (more likely just easier to bribe). I think that’s a balance of sorts?

If senior management within your industry or sector is historically weighted towards males, have you noticed any changes in the last several years?
Very much so. We are in better shape than ever, with a strong pipeline into our leadership group. There's never been a lack of appetite for balance at the top, just a squeamishness with respect to having the conversation on how we get there. Treating the pursuit of balance as a business issue (rather than an opportunity to blame) was a turning point.

For me, inclusion is not about labelling groups - you're always going to alienate with that approach since people are infinitely more than that one box you're asking them to tick. It's about bringing people with you and getting comfortable with having the conversation in the first place. Increased diversity in our promotions process, introducing mentoring, developing a culture where bias is challenged and making it the norm to question and be questioned on our assumptions have all had a positive impact. Talking about it honestly has been the single biggest change we’ve made though.