International Women’s Day: Q&A with Claire Webber

March 23, 2019

Frazer Jones is proud to be supporting International Women’s Day 2019. International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Whilst we all know that gender parity within the workplace has improved over the past decades, we all also know that there is still a long way to go.

We would like to join the discussion and be part of International Women’s Day 2019 #BalanceforBetter campaign on the 8th March by interviewing inspiring women we work with and, in particular, understanding the role confidence has played in their career.

Frazer Jones interviewed Claire Webber, Head of HR, Lovehoney

How do you define confidence, particularly in the workplace? 

Confidence in the workplace shows itself in many guises in my experience. Regardless of gender, I believe this relates to how you empower yourself and others to deliver effectively. Being able to step up when you see a gap/issue/opportunity, articulate this, plan how it will be addressed and the accountability you will then take (hopefully a positive outcome for the business) is all part of how confidence ‘shows itself’. As a woman the challenge is rarely about ‘what you want to do’ but ‘how you wish to do this’ in order to engage others and drive things forward without being seen as too driven or alternatively subservient. Acting with credibility (and being okay to acknowledge you don’t always know the answer), even when you feel like you are blagging it, is essential to give those around you the sense that you are clear on what you are endeavouring to achieve. No one should ever be concerned about challenging a view point/decision/way of working but only on the basis that they do this with integrity and in the business best interests – however this can sometimes be more challenging for a woman as this often requires going against the norm (which is often male orientated).

How important have confidence and self-belief been in achieving your career goals? Please explain why.

Questions relating to self-belief always make me chuckle- for many women the mask they wear at work is to hide their inner insecurities! I would love to say that I have always had a clear career plan and have met all the timelines – however in reality I am driven by the ‘am I adding value’ career path which sees me look at ‘what’ and ‘how’ I operate and reflecting on whether I could be doing something differently to add ‘more’ value. Its these reflections that tend to determine my next career move – whether that be vertical or horizontal – often lending itself to roles that I may not have considered in more traditional career paths. In my early career, for example, I have worked as an accountant at PwC, been a strategic project manager, HR generalist, OD specialist etc – the skills that transfer between them all allow me to consolidate my skills and ‘add the value’ back into the business. All my roles have seen me work in different cultures which have included those which are highly male dominated such as the automotive industry, logistics and manufacturing sectors – however these are often the ones that I tend to enjoy the most as the women who work within them have a tenacity that I see less of in more female orientated environments which can be much more collaborative rather than conflict based.

How can confidence-building be built into career development strategies?

Building your inner confidence is a highly personal journey which, in my opinion, cannot be truly split from your personal life. That said in my experience there are some key associated skills that can support with true confidence building which can be hugely beneficial. For example, having strong awareness of yourself and being able to identify and connect with others allows you to influence and land messages with high levels of EI and credibility. Testing and believing in your personal intuition also lends itself to building confidence – especially if you are unable to solidly justify your decisions with facts and figures. Lastly, being highly tenacious and learning what you are able to control/influence has massively shaped my confidence levels over the years – seeing a Board decide not to invest in a people intervention that in my head was a ‘no-brain’er’ soon taught me the need to be able to disassociate myself from the outcome of decisions that are truly outside of my control. How we weave this into career development strategies is the more challenging part – but I truly believe this needs to start in early career. Calling out what has worked – or not – and evaluating this is key rather than just getting back on the treadmill and potentially not fully understanding what has underpinned these outcomes. Having strong leadership that has the time to spend with their teams is essential to ensure that time is given to reflect, showing vulnerability and strength to then allow strategies to be generated on how to grow is key.