Despite Katie’s insistence on staying true to herself, she acknowledges that sometimes compromise is required to earn acceptance. For example, she describes how, “I would go to meetings with the CFOs of Europe’s biggest banks, and I would be the only woman. Inevitably, someone would say, ‘You don’t look like a finance director’ or, ‘Are you the finance director of the whole bank?’”
Katie realized that some compromise was required if her self-described “skirts, bubbly personality and messy hair” were creating a distraction: “At first, I started wearing boring suits and I went to the hairdresser to get my curly hair straightened, to make sure I looked the part that people expected.”
However, Katie points out that, “You may need to compromise in the moment, but in the end, you can actually show them how somebody who doesn’t look like a finance director can be really good at it. Sometimes you are playing a part, and you have to work out how you are willing to settle so you get the right outcome.”
Katie believes that compromise is required for anyone building a career. For example, she recalls when she relocated across continents for a lateral move, rather than a promotion: “At the time, it felt like a sideways move, but it turned into an excellent opportunity with a much larger organization with far bigger issues. Sometimes women find themselves offered either sideways or backwards moves. You need to be open to the change, if it’s a path to new experiences and challenges that can help you grow.”
Katie opines that flexibility is also required in regard to the mythical concept of work/life balance. “I’m not a big believer in the whole work balance term since honestly, when you are in jobs at this level, there isn’t balance if you count the hours. Instead, I try to integrate my work into my home life and sometimes I have to integrate my home life into my work,” says Katie, who was working from home during our call, nursing her flu-stricken, eight-year-old daughter. “It’s about integrating the parts of your life and making sure that you are giving the right quality of attention to each commitment.”
After my chat with Katie, I reflected on how some women feel the need to choose between the person they are and the person the world expects them to be. Katie shows that it’s not an ‘either/or’ choice, but rather be yourself - with the occasional compromise when needed - to raise your hand and earn your place.
For more inspiring stories from women leaders in financial services visit home.kpmg/mindthegap.