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International Women’s Day: Hear from successful women at Hays

Posted By Amanda Harvey, Hays Canada HR Director on Monday, Mar 5, 2018

Interview with Amanda Harvey - International Women's DayFor International Women's Day, we are featuring stories from some of the successful women we have in Hays here in Canada. Sharing their story with Hays and expertise, they give their career insights and advice.

Here is what Amanda Harvey, HR Director for Hays Canada, has to share about the career she built with Hays.

What was your progression into your leadership role with Hays?
I started with Hays as an HR Manager building our HR function and the team has since grown to 5 people who passionately care about attracting and developing our people. As the company grew and diversified, we really evolved into a people team and my role grew along with that. I’m now the HR director for Hays Canada and proud to be part of management board that is 50 per cent made up of women, including operational roles.

Did you always aspire to reach a leadership role in your career?
I chose a career in HR because it was a way for a woman to reach a leadership level in a business environment. This was not necessarily an easy pursuit as HR has not always been viewed as a true partner to the business. I’m fortunate to have worked for organizations throughout my career that have seen HR as the right hand to operations but I also think you need to put yourself in that position by having the confidence to get involved in the first place.
Have you encountered any gender-specific challenges or obstacles in your career?
Having recently come back from maternity leave and balancing Mom-guilt with trying to have a progressive career has been a challenge. I’m fortunate that Hays is very accommodating of new parents and there’s some flexibility in place but it is a struggle never quite feeling good enough in either role.

How can women help women? Can you share any success stories?
Be supportive of each other – I’ve worked in organizations where women can be quite cut throat with each other to get ahead, but experience tells me you are better off propping each other up than tearing down. You will need your network of supportive women as you develop in your career and manage balancing a family.

Women are more likely to than men to say they left their last employer because of company culture. What cultural changes or initiatives can employers make to better retain their female workforce? What have you seen work during your career?
There are a lot of things culturally that can help retain women, and many of them are good for retention overall. Firstly, I think you need to demonstrate that you, as an employer, value women in the workplace by making sure your senior leadership positions reflect this. As I said, half of Hays Canada’s management board is women, and all of them have been promoted internally.
What works at Hays is a career path and progression structure that is truly merit-based. This has been true for our sales teams for as long as I’ve worked at Hays – promotions are based on specific sales targets, which are the same for every desk and specialism. This really removes the opportunity for bias from the career process.
We recognized a few years ago that our back office and corporate services career paths were not as clear, and fixing this was a priority. Last year we launched a new career path program for these roles, which are based on clear measurable and distinct levels. We’ve seen the first people progress through this process now, and we’ve gotten a lot of great feedback, which is really rewarding.
It’s important to me that we never stop looking for ways to improve. Our next step is a comprehensive diversity and inclusion program, which goes beyond gender. That’s in progress and I’m excited to see where that takes us.
Finally I’d add that I think support for people with families and new parents is crucial. Maternity leave top up programs help financially, and also build loyalty and improve retention, and we also offer accommodation programs for working parents so they don’t need to be worrying about choosing family over work or vice versa. Those programs are not just for women, but they have a bigger impact on retention and career progression for women, who have traditionally been expected to choose between driving their career or committing to their family.

What is your advice for female professionals who are starting out their career and want to reach a leadership role?
Don’t let stereotypes about women in the workplace hold you back. Speak up about your wins, connect with other leaders – your network within your company is more important than your external network for internal career progression. Look for examples and mentors who have the kind of role you want and find out how they got there. There are lots of ways to be a leader, to succeed, and you need to find the right path for you.

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