IWD2020: Q&A with Stephanie Coward, Managing Director at Capita Workforce Management

Kye Parkin
Communications Executive | Business West
6th March 2020

As part of International Women’s Day, Business West has spoken to some of the most inspiring female business leaders in the region to get their views on women in business and what a more gender-balanced world-view means to them.

Tell us about your role? 

I’m the Managing Director of Swindon-based Capita Workforce Management – a workforce management software and access systems solutions business which is owned by Capita PLC.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

No two days are ever the same and there is always something new to learn. The technology business is constantly evolving and this creates fresh opportunities as well as challenges.

And what are the most challenging aspects? 

Communication. Our staff are spread across the UK, with many based from home and 2 offices in Swindon and London. Ensuring people feel part of a team, that they are listened to, know what the objectives of the business are and how they contribute is one of the most important (if not one of the most challenging) aspects of my role.

What 3 things do you think you need to progress as a woman in business?

I think its key for women in business to be able to vary their leadership style when dealing with different people and teams. Not to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders trying to fix everything themselves and instead coach others to be able to resolve problems. Finally, adapt your behaviour depending on the situation.

What are the biggest challenges the future generation of women in business face?

There are still relatively few female role models in senior management positions when compared to men. Nevertheless, positive discrimination can undermine the role of women, with male colleagues perhaps perceiving women being promoted, just because they are women rather on ability. 

What can the next generation bring to business that previous generations may not have?

An upbringing where equality is the norm. We’re certainly heading in the right direction.

What does a more gender-balanced world-view mean for you?

The ability to build the best, balanced teams.

How can we enable more women to take a place at the board-room table?

Stop the tendency to self-deprecate and allocate time to self-promote, stop ‘just getting on with it’ in the hope you will be recognised. Be more visible.

How can businesses evolve to be more gender-balanced?

Encourage self-development and provide access to training that is tailored to gender, rather than a one size fits all approach. At Capita we participate in the 30% club – a female mentoring scheme for women recognised as being future leaders. It’s a great scheme to help promote diversity in the business, and at the boardroom table. 

What advice would you give to young women and men starting out in business today in context of promoting a more diverse world-view?

Get talking, communicate, share your experiences and reflect on your own perceptions and stereotypes you’ve picked up from your family and friends. These are key.

What women inspire you and why?

Katherine Johnson – the American mathematician whose calculations of orbital mechanics were critical to the success of the first US space flights. Not only was she a woman in a male dominated world, but also a black woman at the time of segregation. Her passion, tenacity and resilience was incredible.

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