Investing In Women: A Conversation With Our Chief People Officer Sydney Parkinson

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Happy International Women's Day!

To celebrate, we spoke with HRGO Recruitment's Chief People Officer Sydney Parkinson to understand what it means to invest in women and how businesses can benefit by doing so.

What advice do you have for organisations looking to create and maintain more inclusive teams?

The most inclusive teams I’ve worked in have been those that have invested in enabling and supporting people to contribute.

They invest time in making participation accessible to everyone – so you don’t have to have the loudest voice, head to the pub after work or the desk closest to the boss to have your contribution valued. There’s confidence in the shared goals and safety to share feedback for everyone's benefit and growth.

This year's theme is "Investing In Women" - what does this look like to you?

To me, investing in women is investing in potential. We champion data transparency to hold ourselves, and our clients, to account for our hiring practices.

We’re creating clear pathways for development and progression at the company – showing women the opportunity ahead of them and ensuring they are supported and equipped to make that next step. We’re also making those opportunities flexible – realising that talent isn’t one-size-fits-all.

What skills do you think are essential to being a great leader?

The best boss I’ve ever had was one who showed the human and imperfect side of leadership.

She owned up to mistakes in a heartbeat, made space for others to speak often, and measured her own performance on the success of those working around her. I've learned a lot from her leadership. She was an expert in a typically male-dominated field – technology and data – but inspired all and commanded respect, not just for her strengths but for sharing her challenges and failures.  

What are some of the challenges facing women in leadership?

For me, it starts with opportunity.

We need to give women more opportunities to step on the stage, grow and progress. Then once you’re in the door – we need to better recognise contribution and talent, regardless of context and bias. It can be invaluable to find a mentor who helps you show up with confidence and stand your ground, even when you might feel outmatched or like an outsider.

What advice would you give to women who want to be leaders?

Seek out opportunities with courage.

Don’t be afraid to volunteer yourself for a challenge. Ask for feedback. Role model the behaviours you value. Everyone slips up, but back yourself to show up with compassion and adapt.

How do you think the world of recruitment could become more inclusive of not just women but all excluded and minority groups?

We believe all people deserve feedback to grow.

Applying for a job is a potentially life-affecting activity – we believe everyone should leave an interaction with us better off. Whether that’s feedback on your suitability or advice on gaps or development, it’s about helping you make your next move. We’re using technology to level the playing field; using AI to enhance matching on skills and capabilities, rather than attributes or biases. (Although we’re also mindful of ethics and responsible applications, keeping humans in the loop.) We’re proud to be a third-generation family business founded by my grandmother, Betty, in 1957.

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