#IWD2020: Possibilities endless for women in the workplace
As we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, let’s appreciate the women in our lives and at work too. Women continue to inspire us in our workplace. In our special IWD 2020 coverage, we speak to women leaders who share their thoughts and advice on how women can thrive and succeed at the workplace.
In this exclusive IWD feature, we speak to Jeanne Achille, Founder & CEO at The Devon Group to get her thoughts on the challenges and opportunities for women in the workplace, and her advice for women who aspires to be leaders.
Achille is the Founder and CEO of The Devon Group. She is an HR technology expert with more than 25 years of sales, product management, marketing and PR experience. She has helped design and launch thousands of products in the HR tech category including sourcing, recruiting, onboarding, HRMS, global payroll, relocation, talent management, succession planning and analytics solutions. She will be speaking exclusively at the HR Tech Festival Asia in Singapore on May 12-13.
Tell us a little bit of yourself and your career so far
I’m the founder and CEO of The Devon Group, a PR firm specializing in HR and HR technology. Before starting Devon, I ran marketing for a business unit of Nortel and HR product management at Ceridian. I live outside New York City, have three wonderful daughters and love to travel.
What are the challenges that women face in the workforce today?
Gender discrimination is pervasive; yet, some of it is unintentional. Unconscious bias impacts recruiting, performance management and leadership pipelines. Many women feel intense pressure to balance work and family with little support from their employers.
Are we seeing enough women in leadership roles today? If not, why so?
Women are the majority of the workforce and are not adequately represented in leadership roles. That’s unacceptable. Companies need to make gender diversity a priority, in hiring as well as leadership development. On a similar note, women need to demand their rightful opportunities for promotion.
What can be done to groom more women to take up leadership roles?
Mentorship and sponsorship are key to providing women a path into leadership roles. A mentor can be instrumental in career growth, i.e. learning management skills. A sponsor can advocate for a woman to be promoted into a new role or to be assigned a high profile opportunity.
What are the challenges women leaders face especially in male dominated industries?
Well, my entire career has been in technology, which is a male dominated industry. For the most part, I was the only woman manager, sitting in meetings full of male colleagues. The hurdles to success were significant; in some cases, male colleagues refused to acknowledge my role, wouldn’t cooperate with my requests, wouldn’t travel with me and even lobbied to have portions of my department budget reassigned to them. On a lighter note, it was humorous to have comments made on how many clothes I seemed to have; on a disappointing note, it was humiliating to be told I was leaving work “early” at 6 p.m. to pick up my children. It’s very lonely to be a woman in a male dominated industry – it’s an excellent example of the difference between hiring for diversity and then failing miserably to provide an inclusive culture.
There’s still a gender pay gap in this region. What can be done to bridge the gap?
Gender pay reporting is the first step in resolving this issue. Once there is transparency and visibility into the problem, resolution of the problem can begin.
What is your organization doing to address the issue of gender equality?
Our organization prides itself on a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion.
How do you juggle between your career and family?
My children are now grown and I’m delighted to see how having a working mother influenced their ability to manage their own careers. Juggling career and family was probably the most challenging when travel demands impacted childcare, especially my ability to attend school events that were important to my children. I applaud those employers who are sensitive to working parents and generous in their family leave policies.
What advice would you give to women who aspire to be leaders?
To quote Winston Churchill, never give up. If you aspire to enter the leadership ranks, design a path, invest in education, foster key relationships and never take no for an answer. If your current employer doesn’t provide a leadership path for you, consider changing employers. If you feel you’ve reached the ceiling of opportunity in your career path, consider becoming an entrepreneur. The possibilities are now endless for women in the workplace
Could you briefly share what would you be speaking about at the Women In HR program at the HR Tech Festival Asia?
I’ll be introducing our impressive roster of speakers for the Women in HR Tech Summit and discussing the economic impact of women in ASEAN.
Catch Jeanne Achille live as a speaker at the upcoming
International Women’s Day Features:
Organisations can do more to support women – Joy Koh, Head of Consulting APAC at Alexander Mann Solutions
We need to challenge stereotypes of women – Vivian Chua, Vice-President, Singapore Managing Director, HP
More needs to done to recognise women – Roselin Lee, Vice President of Human Resources, Shiseido Asia Pacific
Women should have equal access to leadership roles – Gladys Chun, Head of Legal, Compliance and Government Affairs, Lazada Group
Mentorship key to grooming women leaders – Giet Koh, Head of Account Management at Deliveroo Singapore