International Women's Day 2021 blog series: Joanne Murphy, MBA, MCBI, Assoc CIPD
Following on from International Women's Day, we are continuing to shine a light on Women in Banking throughout March.
The fifth and final contributor of our Women in Banking blog series focuses on Joanne Murphy, MBA, MCBI, Assoc CIPD, Chief Operating Officer at the Chartered Banker Institute.
Joanne shares her experiences and influences within banking and how they have shaped her career.
Choose your challenge
This year to coincide with International Women’s Day on 8th March, we decided to publish a series of blogs, celebrating key female figures in our profession, and I am really delighted by the responses we received.
The theme of this year's International Women’s Day is “Choose to Challenge” - “We can choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequity. We can choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements.” And so, we asked our asked to contributors to continue this line of discussion.
In life and throughout your career, most people like to have role models – those inspirational people you can look up to and learn from. If you have ever listened to Desert Island Discs then people often talk about a teacher or a boss who helped them along the way, and all our contributors are certainly role models, although I prefer to call these woman “real models”, because whilst they represent many of us -, it is their normality that makes them special and so inspirational.
Some have overcome great challenges in their lives, like Alison McGregor, who suffered the loss of a parent when she was only 16, or like Marlene Shiels, who gives credit to the mentors she has had throughout her successful career.
For Alison and Sandra Benn, continuous education was a key to their success and Lynn McManus’ father’s words resonated with me, as I recalled my Dad giving me the same advice ‘you can be whatever you want to be, but always treat people how you would like to be treated yourself’.
Undoubtedly, instilling self-belief from an early age is critical to how we view ourselves and our world, unfortunately though it is so easy to lose too, particularly if the challenges you face subtly chip away at your self-confidence day-by-day. I know there are times in my career where my self-limiting beliefs have held me back, but ultimately, I talk myself round, and decide on the action I will take, to face whatever is challenging me. At those difficult times, mentors have been my one of my most important assets, whether this has been someone professionally I have known, or my inner support circle, made up of close friends and family. Another strength, is knowing what I value and believe in, which gives me an anchor and supports my personal resilience.
That is why it is more important than ever, that all women call out gender bias and inequity when we see it, sense it, and feel it. That probably sounds strange, but if I reflect on Lynn’s point that gender bias can be so engrained in our culture, we stop noticing it, we might not ever have been aware of it. I’m a child of the generation where women were objectified through the lens of tv comedy, such as Benny Hill, and it was absolutely fine to have a bikini clad woman on a can of beer in the supermarket; I recall my Mum telling me to ‘shut my eyes’ if anything inappropriate appeared, but I suspect “avert your eyes” would have made me less clumsy. The paradox of the “three wise monkeys” is not lost on me here. We need to speak up and call things out, particularly if your success gives you the privilege of position to do so. You are making a difference for the women who will come next; for our daughters, our nieces, our friend’s children and beyond, one voice can make a difference.
In my family, my Mum, Aunt, and Grandmother were all trailblazers in their own way; my Gran built cockpits for aircraft during the second world war, one of the few women selected to do so from her school, I remember her saying how disappointed she was when she had to stop working due to getting married, so from an early age I became aware of the unfairness and lack of choice for some women.
I have been very fortunate to benefit from having sponsorship throughout my career and have had male allies, who could see something in me, before I realised ‘it’ within myself. I enjoyed a variety of secondments and opportunities, which gave me a platform to test and develop new skills, which ultimately changed the direction of my career more than once. Sometimes, too much emphasis is placed on career progression via seniority, I think job fulfilment comes from continually learning, loving what you do and in turn this builds a sustainable career.
I also think it is important to acknowledge that if something isn’t working for you, you feel that a challenge is consuming you, or your working culture doesn’t align to your values, it is not a failure, to stop, recalibrate and do something new - it is your choice.
People can spend too much time being frustrated by the system or burning out, as they fight for something that can be difficult for them to influence. It is important to gain strength from others and discuss the challenges you are facing. Build a support network to keep your resilience in check and use tools and resources, such as the Institute’s mentoring app, which might provide you with a different lens and a new way to approach your challenge and choice.