Young women should find a supportive manager – or leave, says FTSE100 CEO

Young women should look for supportive managers – or find another job, one of the five female CEOs in the UK FTSE100 told an event in London last night.

Liv Garfield, chief executive of Severn Trent Water, the youngest of only five female CEO’s in the UK FTSE100, said young women aiming for the top in their careers should seek out companies willing to take risks on talent. Taking part in a panel discussion event in London hosted by  global executive search and advisory firm Egon Zehnder, Garfield said young women should be proactive and take charge of their careers if they want to make it to the very top.

“You need to work for people in a company that takes talent risks – if they don’t they probably won’t start with you. And then think about how to get ahead. You need to find managers who will be supportive when things don’t go well,” Garfield told an audience of more than 100 business leaders and their daughters.

Garfield also added that it was important to have a supportive personal network, to be clear about work/life balance needs and to look for role models who appear to have got that balance right.

The event, entitled “Leaders and Daughters” is part of Egon Zehnder’s 25 by 25 initiative, which seeks to quintuple the number of female CEOs of Britain’s biggest companies by 2025.

“We want to share the wisdom of those who’ve made the journey with those starting out,” said Miranda Pode, Managing Partner of Egon Zehnder in the UK.

Also on the panel were Clarissa Bartram-Gent, head of Alliance Marketing at Rackspace and her father Sir Christopher Gent, chairman of GlaxoSmithKline and Tess O’Brien, currently working with Catholic Relief Services in Nairobi prior to doing a Masters, with her father, Damien O’Brien, Chairman of Egon Zehnder.

“My advice to leaders is to get the logistics right around flexibility and equal pay, but also create an environment in which people can have open conversations about how to deal with difficult decisions. For young women make sure you’ve thought through what a great life and success look like for you,” Clarissa Bartram-Gent said. “Be true to yourself.”

“The world is craving for a different kind of leadership and I think this is going to happen whether the Establishment wants it or not. A talented younger generation today is looking for an authentic, flexible and more open-minded form of leadership,” said Damien O’Brien. “But it’s not going to be easy. Women have to step up, put themselves on the radar screen and be proactive because that’s what guys have been doing for ever.”

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