Get to know Sara Bell – Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant

Do you face the double burden as a woman with a career and if so, how do you manage it?

Early in my career, as an introvert in a male dominated industry, I worked exceedingly hard and ended up with burnout. It was not widely talked about at the time, and I didn’t know about office housework or the likeability-competence dilemma.

I came back to work full time after having my children and I was very vocal about not working 60 hours a week and those were hard conversations. I’m excited to now have very different conversations with employees in their 20s and early 30s, both men and women are much more aware of the double burden and expect companies to address it, which is so heartening.

What’s your view on the current state of gender equity?

I think we are at a really interesting inflection point. Pay gap reporting and pay directives as well as the pandemic have increased transparency and divided organisations.

Most of the low hanging fruit is picked and those serious about building great organisations for the longer term are doing data driven and evidence-based work to move the needle on real equity. I’m seeing some exciting projects with real, measurable increases in gender equity and the best part is that those are the organisations where all employees are more engaged and innovative, irrespective of gender.

What’s the best example of gender equity leadership you’ve seen in action?

I once worked in an organisation that had an advanced ecosystem. Their EDI strategy had a gender representation target and they had mechanisms and checkpoints in place in every talent management process step. Some regular questions included; Have there been 45% women invited to the senior leadership meeting (inviting high potential talent from the level down to make up the number)? Did we increase the number of women on succession plans by discussing alternative experiences? How can we create a budget buffer to support career transitions, job shares and senior level job shadowing opportunities? 

What is your own experience of the Three Barriers and what tips would you give women navigating their own barriers?

The biggest barriers in my career have been intersectionality, lack of access to informal networks and the great man theory. As a foreign, working class, bisexual woman, I noticed that leaders found it hard to “place” me and as a result I felt I needed to work even harder to prove myself. It wasn’t until much further into my career that I realised that male peers had access to networks of support, information and experiences that helped them position themselves for career progression. As a line manager I shared this with women to encourage them to build networks for sponsorship and support, especially highlighting the benefits an authentic leadership style and personality brings as a ‘culture add’ (as opposed to the outdated ‘culture fit’).

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I am fortunate to live near some ancient woodlands and also to be surrounded by trees. Being in nature, walking and doing yoga plays a huge part in my wellbeing and it’s also a great source of creativity for me. I have two boys and I love the conversations I am having with them on the most diverse topics.