Women on the frontline

Growth in a post-pandemic world is going to be hard but it is really important to build on some of the positives of the experience of lockdown to build better business and accelerate inclusion. Fiona Murchie reflects on leadership wisdom from Dame Helena Morrissey.

Woman on laptop with two children
Summer Issue 2020 cover image
This article is taken from the latest issue of Relocate magazine – the must read for HR, global managers and relocation professionals.
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As was discussed at a panel on Leading Good Work in Practice at the virtual CIPD Festival of Work in June, for some leaders and managers, virtual coffee sessions with the team have generated valuable ideas and provided a better understanding of how employees juggle their lives. Surveys reveal that, lots of employees are enjoying working from home while others are finding it really challenging. For many having family time with the children and working more flexibly has been a positive experience. Few have missed a long commute.Dame Helena Morrissey was speaking on a panel with Andy Biggs, CEO of Phoenix Group, Charlie Mayfield, former chair of John Lewis and Peter Cheese, CEO of the CIPD. There was consensus that one size doesn’t fit all. Andy Biggs underlined, there is a huge opportunity to change work for the better, where the very best people who love their work, can be their best at work and deliver core social purpose.Now is the time for a quantum leap Dame Helena explained. Companies are better governed since the financial crash but we now need to see some heroics, she felt citing the ‘Together’ campaign initiated by the Archbishop of Canterbury. There are ways for business to build on the community spirit felt over recent months, the outpouring of support for key workers, the revival of localism and caring for the elderly which has come to the fore. Business can do more in the next phase to drive recovery and this will attract young people and their customers, she explained.Dame Helena reflected that on the people side, HR were not empowered enough and often seen as a control function rather than a talent function. One of the great things about the crisis has been that many people have been empowered to act. There is a danger that as we go back to work we return to where we were, she pointed out.She urged leaders and people managers to reach out and find out what people want. Employees have seen a more human side of their leaders and employers and their people managers have been attuned to the mental health of their employees which must continue. There is a danger that the diversity and inclusion agenda gets pushed aside but this is not just about productivity it is about fairness. Many women have shouldered most of the responsibility for more domestic duties and family, as well as supervising schooling at home, juggling childcare and care for elderly relatives, while working from home.Summer-Issue-in-text-banner1In her master class, she reminded the audience that women leaders can be compassionate and strong. As you go through your career lead as a woman, by building compassion, empathy and collaboration and be authentic, she recommended.Learning from her experience of seizing the opportunity to change board rooms, by founding, The 30% Club, she shared, “You can’t influence everyone but you can influence. Don’t try to do everything, but think about the thing you would like to do differently.”Asked about her own coronavirus legacy, she explained that she was going to devout time, energy and influence to inclusion, diversity and gender. Coronavirus had taught her, that things can happen very slowly and then all happen at once.
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