Earlier this week, the world celebrated International Women’s Day, which provides women and men a time to acknowledge and reflect on the progress that has been made towards equality, to identify the women in our lives who deserve gratitude for being people worthy of emulation, and to recognize where changes still need to be made to a system that began as male-dominated.
It is a day to appreciate what makes women strong and effective leaders and how organizations can continue to empower their female employees. IWD highlights the benefits of building a diverse team with different points of view and approaches to problem-solving.
In honor of International Women’s Day on Monday, we took some time to sit down with the President of SRG, North America, Jayne Gill, to reflect on what this day means to her every year. And, we wanted to get a sense of where she got her drive, her leadership style, and her inspiration. She graciously shared her story with us and now we’d like to share a bit of it with you.
Jayne’s parents met during World War II. Her mother was a Sister/Nurse and her father was in the British Army, and his service inspired her to join the Royal Air Force. She served her country at a time when there were far fewer women in leadership and there were not nearly as many positions open. During her service, she gained skills that would become the foundation for her tenacious work ethic and proclivity for leadership.
When she left the RAF in the early 90s, she got her first job in the recruiting world, at a company called Blue Arrow (which coincidentally, was acquired by the Impellam Group years later). She progressed rapidly during her time in recruiting and gained a strong understanding of the ins and outs of the industry. She grew mutually beneficial relationships with clients at some of the largest companies in the U.K. and began building a network of people who recognized her as a hard-working, results oriented go-getter in the recruiting and staffing space.
While on a ski trip in the U.S. in the mid-90s, Jayne met her now-husband, Matt. Together, they recognized a gap in the tourism market and decided to take some time off from the staffing industry to start a business that addressed this gap. They started a company called “Ski the States” that brought skiers from England to New England -- marketing their services to ski resorts in New England and growing quickly.
Over the years, they were approached multiple times to sell their company, and eventually made the decision to do so. And, Jayne made the decision to move to the United States following the sale.
She re-entered the staffing industry and took on a few different leadership roles in the U.S. In most positions, she found the culture to be very welcoming to female leadership. But that wasn’t always the case. Although she found a male dominated environment to be slightly off-putting, she didn’t let it slow her down.
Jayne acknowledged that she would have to work harder than some of the men in her organization to prove herself, so she did just that. And she looked to her brother for inspiration as well. He became the first non-German member of the board of BMW which motivated Jayne to disregard the status quo and not let tradition limit her career trajectory.
When she finally found her way to the Impellam Group, she was relieved to join a company where she didn’t have to work against a male-dominated system. Female leadership is embraced whole-heartedly at Impellam and she breathed a sigh of relief knowing that she had found a place to call home. She was able to focus less on swimming against the patriarchal current and build a successful team based solely on merit.
At this stage in our discussion, Jayne was kind enough to point out some lessons she had learned along the way that we believe can be helpful for anyone regardless of industry, gender, race, or any other differentiating factor. She has found success by being a self-motivated worker and embracing her individuality. It is the differences in all of us that set us apart from the crowd and we tend to thrive when we accept these differences instead of trying to hide them in order to blend in.
In the same vein, it is important to stand up for oneself. You command respect when you are not afraid to voice a difference in opinion, as long as it is done in a polite manner. Don’t be intimidated. It is important to treat people how you want to be treated but not to let emotion and fear of other people’s reactions cloud how you approach the solution to a problem.
Jayne found her home at SRG because it is an organization with a strong entrepreneurial spirit, a global perspective, and a leadership team with an openness to suggestion from employees at any level. This environment has enabled her to build a smart, passionate, and dedicated team with diverse view points and creative solutions.
Despite this, she recognizes that we still need to #choosetochallenge, to bring men and women to the table and be willing to discuss the gaps that still exist in the world and how to address them together. When everyone is treated equally, and a mix of views and opinions are considered, the world benefits.
Here, at SRG, we wish everyone a Happy International Women’s Day. We encourage you to discuss gender equality issues with your loved ones and co-workers. Change can only be achieved if we aren’t afraid to have the difficult discussions. Keep working, keep your head up, step out of your comfort zone, and continue to #choosetochallenge.