The women leading Lima
The Women of LIMA
It’s fair to say that 2018 is shaping up to be an important moment in history for women across the world. 100 years on from the landmark win of the female vote, the role of women in society as a whole continues to be scrutinised while traditional views are challenged.
LIMA’s female-centric leadership team bucks the trend in an industry dominated by men - women occupy just 17% of IT roles in the UK. On International Women’s Day we thought we’d get the views of Lisa Thornton, CEO, Cath Bracken, CFO, Chantal Hannell, Head of Support Desk and Katherine Pugh, Head of Marketing on different aspects of the conversation.
Lisa Thornton, CEO
"Being in a male dominated industry has had its challenges over the years, however you win respect through results and hard work. It’s never really caused me any concern to be one of a minority of women in my peer group of CEO’s and for the most part I’ve not felt disadvantaged for being a woman. In fact, how can I really know if I was at a disadvantage? I’ve always been me, so don’t have a different perspective.
I’ve always, first and foremost, been a sales person and women tend to do well in that role. My relationships with customers have always been extremely positive and many of them have lasted more than ten years. I’m not shy of hard work, either, which is why I feel I’ve been so successful. LIMA was initially financed by personal funds, one major client and a driving ambition to focus on customer service and account management. I’ve stayed true to that vision ever since.
Things are changing for women in the industry, but very slowly. From the earliest days of LIMA I’ve hosted an annual “Ladies in IT day” for customers at Chester Races. At first there might have only been two or three women in senior positions at our customers, but now there are more than a dozen. Still a relatively small number compared to the men, but the proportion is noticeably growing – and we always make sure we have a great day out!"
Cath Bracken, Chief Finance Officer
"I’m in a similar position to Lisa from the point of view of being in the minority of female Chief Finance Officers, but it’s not something I really think about. I’ve been part of LIMA for eleven years, so my role has grown as the organisation has grown and my success has run in parallel to LIMAs. However, I also manage our HR function and that’s where I feel that the equality debate becomes relevant to me.
Changes to legislation regarding parental leave as opposed to maternity leave, for example, is important in principle but we have had no take up here at LIMA. The traditional gender roles prevail, at least within our business.
From my own perspective as a working mum I understand that balancing work and home life is very personal. Every family is different and I try to meet the needs of our staff where possible. As a relatively small employer with a twenty four hour operation, being able to offer flexible working hours, extended leave and so on is a real challenge while maintaining our ability to serve our customers. I don’t think that’s an equality issue so much as a practical challenge."
Katherine Pugh, Head of Marketing
"Women have always been the majority demographic in marketing roles, which has always been a bit of a puzzle to me while sales is more evenly balanced. Even in a predominantly female industry, though, it’s incredibly frustrating to find a disproportionate number of men at the top of the hierarchy.
The fact that so few women get to the top of the tree points to the difficulties of career progression which apply in every industry. I experienced it myself when I had children and have seen it happen to a lot of friends who take career breaks and struggle to get back in anywhere near the level that they got off the career conveyor belt.
I feel extremely lucky to have been able to secure my position with an employer who understands people as people as well as a means to getting the job done – it’s a rare thing."
Chantal Hannell, Head of Support Desk
"Women make up about 25% of our staff as a whole but in the service desk team it’s even lower at 10%. The applicants coming through to me for vacancies are equally dominated by men, so I don’t think it’s our recruitment policy that’s contributing to the imbalance. What I’m seeing in applications suggests a general lack of interest and take up of technology related subjects by young women at college and universities.
Being a mother of three girls, I’m keenly aware of the need to keep doors open for women on all subjects and challenge any preconceptions that technology is not a field for women to go into. STEM (science, technology and maths) is a focus in a lot of schools, but as with everything else in a child’s development, it’s what happens outside the classroom that has the biggest impact. The positive progressive role models are there if you look for them, but they can be overshadowed by the sheer volume of “traditional” female images portrayed across the media."
Lisa concludes "While we can’t change the world, we can be responsible for our decisions as individuals, employers and parents.
Building a talented team of wonderful people has been my greatest business achievement so far. LIMA has a strong background in developing all its staff and is proud of its IIP Gold certification. A focus on developing skills and talent in house from apprenticeships, technical training and management training to personal development underpins our belief that our people, whatever their gender, are the key to our success.
I think having a good mix of personalities is a benefit in any team – it helps to create balance – so having a smaller pool of female talent from which to recruit is a shame.
Everyone in the organisation undertakes a full day of training when they join LIMA to understand their own behavioural and communication traits in the context of the LIMA team. Understanding our differences and preferences is the first step in improving communication skills and ensuring we tap into the potential of everyone that works here.
The recent operational changes we’ve made to the business have necessitated me getting stuck into the detail of the business in a way I haven’t for a while. Re-engaging with different departments and getting to know all the teams in the new LIMA has been extremely rewarding and has reaffirmed my pride in what I’ve created here at LIMA."