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"We are seeing the success of this [maternity coaching] programme, as we have a return rate from maternity leave of 90%"

Emily Midwood, Deutsche Bank, HR Magazine, 18 May 2011

Leaders Corner - Carolyn McCall, CEO, EasyJet

Hear from inspiring female leader and mother of three, Carolyn McCall, her views on what it takes to be a good leader and to successfully juggle work and family.

Geraldine Gallacher talks to high flying CEO of EasyJet Carolyn McCall. She joined EasyJet in July 2010, prior to this she was Chief Executive of Guardian Media Group plc. Carolyn has also been awarded the OBE for services to women in business and also named Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year in 2008.

Carolyn McCall

Q - What ‘typical’ female characteristics tend to help or hinder leadership?
A - I think it is too easy to generalize about the “soft” skills that women innately have and the “hard” skills that men are supposed to have, as to be successful in today’s core demanding environment you need both. Not many women do well without being completely on top of their numbers! Having said that, most women I have worked with are good listeners and are flexible and collaborative more naturally and these are really important qualities when building high performing teams.

Q - As you’re no doubt aware men can now share their partner’s maternity leave. Do you think there will be much of a take up and if so what implications might that have for business in future?
A - I think younger men will take this up. They seem to have a different outlook and want an active part in their family’s lives. I think the reason there won’t be a huge take up is because all leave is difficult for employers to manage around, even in large companies and the culture of organizations will have to change quite dramatically for this to be seen as “normal”. A tougher economic environment will exacerbate this.

Q - Many of the women I coach struggle to find time for the networking required to succeed in certain careers once they’ve started a family. What advice can you share on this front?
A - It’s really important (it is also stimulating). I think networking can be misunderstood – it is not just about socialising with people in the evening, it can be really valuable to make connections because you never know when you may need to get some advice, knowledge, information or other useful contacts which can really add value to your business. The best way to do this is to think about what the most valuable forums are and only do those, rather than trying to do too much.

Q - What’s your reaction to Katie Hopkins (ex Apprentice) saying on the One Show that women should go back to work three weeks after having their children to avoid it affecting their career?
A - I think women have to decide for themselves what is best for them. For some women going back so quickly would make them very unhappy and they would be miserable at work and completely ineffective. For others, this could be the right thing. The most important thing is for women to talk to their companies, especially the more senior they are, and work something out which they feel happy and confident about.

Q - You’ve worked at both The Guardian and EasyJet in Director Roles – what differences have you noticed with respect to nurturing female talent?
A - No differences – usually, it is all about confidence and building that.

Q - As a mum, what have been the most challenging ages of your children when it comes to combining motherhood with a big job?
A - There is no answer to this – and this is a work in progress (my kids are 8 and 10)

Q - A lot of female CEOs have husbands with less demanding jobs. Do you think families can withstand having two careerists? And if yes how?
A - Again, this is a choice for families to make and no one can answer this except the parents concerned. My husband owns his own company which helps as he can be more flexible and that works for us – he also travels for his job and can be away for a week at a time, that’s when I go into single mother mode. We have got strong back-up support.

June 2011 Newsletter Articles - quicklinks

Posted on: 21.06.2011

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