This year’s International Women’s Day asks us to #EmbraceEquity — we’ve asked six inspirational women from our CX50 list about their experiences, inspirations, and tips they have, as well as what #EmbraceEquity means to them.
What is your role, and what does it involve?
Rachel Kerrone, Brand & Marketing Director at Starling Bank
I’m the Brand & Marketing Director at Starling Bank and my role is to make Starling famous right across the UK, bringing better money management to everyone. Within the team we run nationwide ad campaigns, large scale partnerships and are constantly innovating our products and features based on customer feedback.
Heather Cobb, SVP of Member Engagement at Tide
I’m responsible for Member Engagement at Tide, leading a team of 60+ spanning product, marketing and operations. It is great fun to use our member insights to build and market products and services that genuinely help our members save time and money.
Sophie Wheater, CMO at GiffGaff
I’m the CMO at GiffGaff — a telco network doing things a little differently. As a team we set the long-term strategy for the business and then work incredibly closely with Product, Tech, Finance and Commercial to collaborate on how that strategy can be brought to life.
Lis Blair, CMO at MoneySupermarket
I’m the Chief Customer Officer at MoneySuperMarket Group, responsible for brand, marketing and communications, customer experience and engagement, and customer operations.
Heather Smith, MD at Allianz Personal Insurance (LV)
I am the MD of the retail business of Allianz Personal Insurance. I run a multi brand, multi product portfolio in the personal general insurance market. I have a remit across distribution, marketing, digital, underwriting, contact centre and communication. I create products, sell insurance and deliver service to our circa 5 million customers under the LV+, flow and various different partners such as household name building societies and unions and more.
Marg Jobling, CMO at Natwest
Chief Marketing Officer, NatWest Group, responsible for marketing communications across all franchises, brand, sponsorships, insight and central customer design strategy. My job is to leverage data and insight to bring our purpose to life with our customers, to build brand differentiation, awareness and consideration.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Marg Jobling: Switching careers from a R&D Scientist to a marketer!
Rachel Kerrone: Without a doubt building the Starling brand from scratch. It’s been an incredible journey, and I love that I am still learning new things every day. Outside of work, managing three boys on a day-to-day basis feels like quite an achievement!
What’s been the biggest learning in your career?
Sophie Wheater: That being my authentic self, vulnerabilities and all, is the basis of good leadership — that, and hire people that are better than you.
Heather Cobb: Everyone brings a unique perspective to the table. Not being afraid of speaking up and challenging appropriately if you don’t agree with something — to me, this is essential at any level of an organisation.
What would you say to your younger self if you were starting in the workplace now?
Heather Cobb: I would really encourage my younger self to speak up more — I’m so impressed with the amazing ideas and contributions from the younger women in my current team, and if I were starting out now, I’d aim to emulate them!
Sophie Wheater: Be more intentional! I always worked really hard but I wasn’t as intentional about my direction as I could have been. It’s worked out pretty well (VERY well, I love my job), but I see some of the folk at giffgaff in their 20s and early 30s totally nailing it and wonder how different things might have been if my younger self had been more sure of where she was going. Imposter syndrome is never far from my door and I’m pretty sure a more intentional path to here would have helped to allay that.
Heather Smith: Don’t worry about not knowing everything. It is impossible. Being open and willing to ask, showing vulnerability in the right way and taking pride in the achievement of others is the most fulfilling way to be.
This year’s IWD theme is #EmbraceEquity — what does this mean to you?
Lis Blair: “Embracing Equity” beautifully encapsulates the opportunity for us all, and the challenge for some. For me, beyond the base principles of equality, it means everyone should have (and expect) an equal voice, and that I have a responsibility to treat others as I would like to be treated.
Sophie Wheater: I genuinely believe there is a superpower in us all. A one size fits all framework is never going to give the space for all those individual super-powers to a) be seen and b) be developed. The distinction between equality and equity that is being heralded right now is SO important, and how we embrace that in our businesses is critical if we want to be part of moving humanity forward. I know that sounds big — it’s because it is.
Rachel Kerrone: We talk a lot about levelling the playing field at Starling — whether that’s in banking, tech or sport through our partnerships. It’s a value that’s always been incredibly important to me personally from quite a young age and one that I instil in my own children. The more we promote the importance of equality, the more we can stop unconscious bias and inequality in its tracks.
Heather Smith: We know at the root of equity is not giving everyone exactly the same but giving each individual what they need for their personal situation. It has taken me a long time to learn and be careful with the word “fairness” and to truly understand the need to give each person what they personally need. I have spent a lot of my later career coaching and sponsoring others and that time spent with such a variety of amazing people really helped me understand getting it right one person at a time. I hope part of my legacy will be seeing the people I have tried hard to support be successful on their terms.
What women inspire you the most?
Lis Blair: Those who are simply brilliant in an unassuming way. History is full of great examples of women who’ve proven themselves and in so doing, created an easier path for women coming after them. Thinking about inspiring women today though, Jacinda Ardern is my number 1 choice.
Marg Jobling: Women who succeed despite the odds, remain true to who they are and then turn around and give the women behind them a leg up
What more can we do to champion women in your industry?
Marg Jobling: Create the conditions for women to thrive through structural changes such as policies around things like flexible working, career development pathing, mentoring & sponsorship programmes but more importantly senior women need to be brilliant role models for other women, lean in and help address the balance
Sophie Wheater: Embrace part-time work, job-shares and flexible working policies at the highest levels. The talent that sits in the millions of Mums who would love to be working but can’t balance it with their number one priority, their kids, is phenomenal. I work 4 days a week; one of the senior roles in my team is a job share. Our CTO, a Dad who wants more time with his little one, also works 4 days a week. If you’ve got a role to fill, think about the level of expertise you could get in with a 3 or 4 day week for the same salary as a 5 day week; this opens doors for women who have worked for years and then dropped out because of family commitments. I’m very lucky at giffgaff — this mindset is well and truly adopted. We’re keen to show the world that there is a better, more equitable way of doing things — which works out better for everyone
Heather Smith: Continue to invest in getting women from diverse and different backgrounds into our industry. We need to help young women understand the variety of careers you can have in Insurance — brands, marketing, customer service, digital, technology, highly numerate and highly creative — an industry for all talents and the more we have different thinking the better the culture and performance of the business.
Read the profiles of all the CX50 2022 winners here: https://bit.ly/3mT9jTj