Female leadership: Taking your seat at the top table

Caroline Moultrie, managing director at MMGY Hills Balfour

Wednesday 20th January 2021 is a historic day as Kamala Harris shatters one of the world’s highest glass ceilings and becomes vice-president of the USA. Her stellar political ascent has shown us that Harris is no stranger to experiencing career ‘firsts’. She was the first woman to serve as San Francisco’s district attorney, the first Indian-American elected to the US senate and today, she will become the first woman, the first Black person and the first Indian-American to be vice-president of the USA.

Her victory is a significant win for women of all colours and nationalities – all around the world. We are more fortunate in the travel & tourism sector where there is a greater representation of women in C-suite roles. However, our work is far from done. Last year, eighty-seven percent of global mid-market companies had at least one woman in a senior management role (Grant Thornton, Women in Business 2020: Putting the Blueprint into Action 2020). This is not enough and this year, we need to continue to work to see those numbers increase.

Over the years, I have learned many lessons that have helped shape my career trajectory and propelled me to leadership roles. I have had incredible mentors, taken every opportunity afforded to me, stayed determined and of course had a healthy dose of luck. I wanted to share the top three lessons that I have learnt over the years.

First, we need to step back and appreciate that careers don’t happen overnight – the reality is that they take much longer than you ever imagined. Find your purpose and create a plan which can be distilled into a series of achievable goals that will take you to the top. Seek out mentors to help guide you and remember, enthusiasm, consistently working hard and persistency will prepare you for the long game. If you need an example, Harris’ perseverance and passion is taking her to the top of her profession.

Secondly, we all need to learn to embrace failure and understand that failing is what success is built on. Failure means that you’re getting things done – the more you take risks and make hard decisions, the closer you are to realising your potential.  The same goes for excuses. No one wants to hear excuses; people just want to know it won’t happen again. Knowing how to make a sincere, heartfelt apology is one of the best personal and professional skills you can develop and they cost nothing and normally solve everything.

Thirdly, as women, we need to get comfortable feeling uncomfortable. For me, the most important lesson is to always push yourself out of your comfort zone. It is vital to travel, talk and meet as many people as you can, experience as much as you can and do all you can to educate yourself about people, cultures and traditions – broaden your horizons. Each time I force myself to step outside my box, I have a better understanding of my own as well as other people’s emotions. This has ultimately made me a more confident and empathetic leader.

We need to stop preparing the table for others and like Kamala Harris, we shouldn’t be afraid to take our seat at the top table.