Lee Lam has been a personal and corporate coach for 13 years and she has over 20 years of experience in the financial services industry. Her experience ranges from technical expertise gained in data centres and trade floors, to strategic partner as chief operating officer to the chief technology officer. She has a dual honours degree in law and American studies from Keele University, is qualified as a coach, and is ITIL [Information Technology Infrastructure Library] qualified.
Lee was an attendee at the inaugural Womanthology Diversity Thought Leaders’ event at Warwick Business School in The Shard on 20th November 2017.
From COO and chief of staff to independent disruptor
My career has been pretty varied within the financials services and technology industries, starting as data centre operator and progressing onto COO [chief operating officer] and chief of staff roles. My approach to my career was always to carry on pushing until someone told me to stop, and I found that people very rarely do stop you!
My experience is most meaningful when I can troubleshoot and solve the challenges companies face, so I now work as an independent disruptor consultant, working with people, teams and businesses who want a fresh approach to their mind set and an open and honest assessment of what’s going on. I was a COO for many years within the financial services industry, and I know that there are parts of the job that can be hard to implement from inside the company.
We will never achieve gender balance if we keep doing what we are currently doing…
I am so glad I went to the event, because it was exactly what I had hoped it would be – a joining together of some really impressive organisations, talented professionals and amazing women leaders, who realise that the only change is going to happen when we join together and push for progress as one.
We all have our ideas of what will ‘solve’ the challenge of improving diversity within companies at all levels, and the event showed that they can all work together if we collaborate.
Innovation is the only thing that will be help us progress towards gender balance, because by definition it is embracing concepts and ideas that currently don’t exist! We don’t have a balance right now and that will not change if we keep doing what we are currently doing.
It is going to take really disruptive thoughts and ideas, and the people willing to take the chance of stepping up and into the arena, to show a different way and challenge other companies to follow.
I thought it was great to see what Lynne McBurney at Arnold Clark is doing around encouraging women into auto-related roles, especially when you consider one of the first stats in the presentation around the percentage of women employed (26%) versus the percentage of female customers (56%). Straight away that opened some eyes about why it is important to improve the gender balance!
The panel even was also really great, as there was a range of ideas all focussed around that commitment to needing change. And, because I love the psychology of organisations and the way we can affect change, the talk by Dr. Chengwei Liu on behavioural economics and “nudge” theory was inspirational.
I came away from the event much more hopeful about the progress already made, and inspired to put more substance around my own ideas of gender rebalance and adapting the whole people from recruitment right through to talent management, so I can talk to prospective clients about how I can help them be more innovative and disruptive, to really make the difference.
Reimagining the CV
To me, innovation is the only way this whole thing changes. Recruitment for example, starts with a CV, but what is a CV? It’s the piece of paper that tells employers that you’ve done that job before (hence the reason they will then feel you are a safe bet), but if it says what you have done before, how are other diverse groups ever going to get that experience in the first place?
We have to be more disruptive and think way, way, way out of the box in order to understand what our organisations need at such a level so that we can select the people who will add the most value right now and in the future. That may well be talent which, for whatever reason, has not been given the opportunities so far. I believe is the biggest innovation we can effect in this space right now is how to recruit without CVs, or with blind CVs.
Coming up for me and my work
I’m working with clients right now on team dynamics, and that by default is including a lot of gender based discussions. The process I follow helps identify people’s strengths in a way that strips away any possibility of unconscious bias, so I am currently trying to reach out further with that approach.
In 2018, I’ll be working with a variety of clients who have a to-do list of “what needs to be done” but that never gets prioritised and is now starting to cause them problems. From the event, I know more disruption is needed in the diversity space so I’m doing my bit by getting out there and spreading the word. I know from the event that people are frustrated at waiting for change so we have to go out and make change happen together.