Nearly a year since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the business world has changed drastically. Remote work has become the new normal, forcing employees to juggle their professional responsibilities with the demands of home life. At the same time, executives and leaders across the globe search for new ways to keep employees engaged, productive, and happy.
Amidst the upheaval comes the potential for progress—and woman leaders are taking the reins. Annie Thompson, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at Velocity Global, teamed up with three female executives from across the world to discuss how women are responding to the pandemic and transforming the future of work. Her guests include:
- Mei Burgin, Lead Executive of Startup Programs at MaRS Discovery District. Based in Toronto, MaRS is North America’s largest innovation hub. The not-for-profit incubator nurtures the growth of thousands of tech companies across Canada.
- Gayle Davies, Partner and FDI Specialist at RSM UK. Davies has 24 years of experience working for RSM, the United Kingdom’s leading audit and tax consultancy firm. Davies’ primary focus is guiding RSM’s North American tech clients through international expansion.
- Sarah Grimstead, Regional Vice President at Insperity. With more than 100,000 client companies across the U.S., Insperity helps businesses streamline every aspect of their HR operations. Grimstead brings 22 years of experience to Insperity’s Greater Los Angeles area sales team.
During the roundtable discussion, the panel covered topics ranging from how female business leaders have adapted to COVID-19 to what companies can do to empower the next generation of professional women. Following are several highlights from the discussion, which can be viewed in full on the Velocity Global Resource Center.
Work-Life Balance for Female Leaders During COVID-19
Thompson began the webinar by asking the panel about new challenges they’ve experienced while adjusting to remote work during the pandemic—and how they’ve overcome them.
Burgin began by speaking about how working from home adds pressure for women to simultaneously take care of their employees and families. To avoid burnout, she emphasized the importance of:
- Setting realistic goals at home and work
- Finding personal time to recharge throughout the day
- Disconnecting from work outside of regular hours
Davies provided additional insight on balancing the roles of executive and mother while working remotely. “I have six-year-old twins,” said Davies. “At the start of the pandemic, after two weeks of balancing home-school and work, I thought I would have a meltdown. [My husband and I] have learned it’s not all on the woman or the mom. We need to share responsibilities at home.” Davies then discussed strategies for realigning expectations to experience the positive aspects of working from home.
Grimstead highlighted how her client relationships have changed during the pandemic—for the better. By conducting virtual business meetings at home rather than in the office, Grimstead says interactions have become more personalized. “There’s a different level of connection even with our clients,” said Grimstead. “This is a very good thing. It’s humanized our relationships a lot.”
How Companies Can Promote Female Leadership
After diving into additional lessons and insights gained during the pandemic, the panelists discussed ways companies can increase the number of women in executive positions.
Burgin began by citing statistics that speak to the gender disparity in Canada’s tech industry. Women comprise only 13% of tech executives in the country, while 53% of Canadian tech companies have no female executives at all. To promote more women to C-suite positions, Burgin advocated for implementing female mentorship programs. “We need to create a pipeline of early- to mid-career women who can succeed the current generation of female leaders.” Burgin then went into detail about a specific Canadian program designed to increase gender parity at the executive level—and how the program can serve as a model to individual organizations.
Echoing Burgin’s sentiment, Grimstead said that companies need to actively create programs that accelerate female career development. “There are unintended biases in a lot of companies—many just don’t necessarily see gender diversity as a problem,” Grimstead said. “Companies need to have a specific plan to help women grow because it won’t organically happen fast enough.”
Davies reinforced the idea that companies must actively nurture emerging female leaders. She also noted that her industry had made significant gains in gender equality over the past two decades. “About 20 years ago, the accountancy sector was extremely male-dominated,” Davies said. “It still is in some respects, but the volume of women in leadership positions has increased significantly.” To continue the positive trend, Davies believes companies must recognize talent and help female leaders build confidence early in their careers.
Strategies for Increasing Employee Engagement, Overcoming Future Challenges, and More
Thompson led the panelists through a series of other discussions related to female leadership at the executive level. Drawing on their decades of combined experience spanning three countries and multiple industries, Burgin, Grimstead, and Davies went into detail about:
- Maximizing employee engagement and wellbeing during the age of remote work
- Lessons learned from working with some of the world’s most innovative companies
- Managing imposter syndrome in the workplace
- The value of building networks and mentoring the next generation of female leaders
- The most challenging obstacles ahead for increasing gender equality in the corporate world
- Advice for female professionals looking to grow their leadership skills, accelerate their careers, and contribute to the overall advancement of workplace gender equality
Discover every insight uncovered by the panelists by viewing the full webinar at the Velocity Global Resource Center. To learn how Velocity Global can help your company source and hire the best and brightest female talent across every corner of the globe, reach out to our international expansion experts today.