Posted on: November 2018 Lara Edgcombe
Clare Cooper has worked for Phaidon International for almost a decade, joining in 2009 after graduating in Mathematics and Management at Loughborough University. She was the first hire in the Selby Jennings team, where she helped build out the team to 10 people and established it as one of the leading tech teams on the market.
In 2014, she was offered the opportunity to move to the U.S. to set up Phaidon International’s San Francisco office. Clare established two new brands for the company in the U.S. called Glocomms and EPM Scientific, quickly building a client base and becoming a leader in the market. Clare then moved to New York to further the growth and strategy for the Glocomms brand across North America. This allowed Clare to focus on an area she is very passionate about - driving the conversation about diversity in the tech sector. Over the years, she has worked with many non-profits and spoken at several events to increase diversity in technology, notably with Out in Tech and Girls in Tech.
Staffing Industry Analysts Global Power 150 - Women in Staffing 2018
After nearly five years in the U.S. Clare has now returned to London to help grow Selby Jennings Tech and Glocomms’ market share in London and Europe. She recently sat down with us to talk about women in tech, her drives and career path to date.
What inspires or drives you as a leader?
I think the thing that drives me the most every day is to always be challenged, making sure that everything I do will make myself and my family proud.
Do you have a female role model, if so, who and why?
I wouldn’t necessarily say that I have one particular female role model from the world of tech or business. Instead, I tend to be inspired daily or weekly by some of the amazing females already in my life, depending on where I am in life and what challenge I am facing at the time. For example, one of my best friends is a lot younger than me, I met her a few years ago when she was graduating from Stanford and I was just in awe of how smart and wise she is. Her intelligence always inspires me to keep seeking new knowledge.
Another of my closest friends is from Venezuela, she moved to America when she was younger and is one of the most hardworking and genuine women that I have ever met. She helps to keep me grounded and always reminds me to put life into perspective - to work hard but always have time for fun. Then, another of my friends in London is a successful barrister who inspires me to be more direct and to stand up for myself more. I could honestly go on, but in a nutshell, all the incredible women in my life are role models for me - plus the incomparable JLo (I’m a bit of a fan!).
How did you get to where you are today and who helped along the way?
I live my life by the quote “work hard and be nice to people” and I think that has helped me a lot. As well as that, I always remain humble and try to remember that there’s always room for improvement and constantly new things to learn.
As for the people who have helped me, in all honesty, I’ve always been fiercely independent and terrible at asking for help (perhaps due to my Scorpio nature). It’s something that I am continuing to work on.
I think a lot of people have helped and supported me along the way. My bosses, colleagues, Phaidon International CEO Harry Youtan, my friends and - probably more than anyone - my parents, who have supported my career since day one.
After all your success, what challenges do you continue to face?
Every couple of years I move into a new role, whether it be in a new location or setting up a new brand. In the past four years alone I’ve lived in three different cities. That poses a lot of challenges, from building a presence in a new market to having to prove yourself to clients who have no prior knowledge of you or the brand. Plus all the personal challenges, such as living in a different city and making friends.
Do you think that there are barriers for women looking to climb the ladder?
On the whole, I would say yes and it’s naive to believe otherwise. However, I do think that it can vary greatly depending on the industry that you are in. There are huge challenges in the tech industry, for instance, and I like to think that Phaidon International (and myself) are helping to address those issues.
In the recruitment industry, there shouldn’t necessarily be any barriers. The great thing about this sector is that you can enter it from any academic background (even without academic qualifications) so there are little-to-no challenges at a grassroots level. In the majority of recruitment firms, you’ll find that there is equal representation at entry level and middle management. However, at senior leadership and CEO-level, there are fewer females - but I do believe that the only barrier here is simply a lack of awareness and education around the value of diversity and that this perception is now changing.
What advice would you give to women who are looking to become leaders in a business? Are there any strategies that can help them gain a more prominent role in a male-dominated field?
First, I think that it’s really important to be educated and informed about diversity. Over the years I have read a veritable library of books and research, plus attended a number of seminars and talks. I would recommend that other women do this.
How you use this information is also crucial, and there is a fine balance between recognizing the challenges and empowering yourself, versus resenting those challenges and feeling like a victim.
Women should build a strong network, including other female leaders and people outside of their immediate organization. I’ve only had the confidence to do this in the past few years, but it has helped me immeasurably as a leader, giving me new ideas on how to approach situations and just being able to talk with people who don’t work with me every day.
My final piece of advice would be to always stay authentic, recognize your strengths, take risks and remain positive. That’s advice I would give to anyone, male or female.
What do you think will be the biggest challenge for the next generation of women looking to move up the hierarchical ladder?
On the contrary, I would like to believe that the next generation of women will be in a much better position than when I started out. In the ten years that I’ve been working in the industry, I have seen so many positive changes, not just in recruitment but in the workforce as a whole. Diversity was rarely mentioned ten years ago. Now, we have flexible working on the rise (it barely existed a decade ago) and there is a law in California that requires all publicly listed companies to have at least one female on their board by the end of 2019. Plus, there are now laws in multiple states and countries that address the gender pay gap.
Of course, there is still a long way to go, but I do feel that if we can build momentum with these positive moves, the next generation of women will see and feel the difference.
In your experience, what do you think a business can do to encourage diversity? And how can a business attract and retain female talent?
There is a lot that business leaders can do. I actually worked on a study on this very topic earlier this year, with some interesting results. The study found that there is a lot of disparity within organizations in understanding why diversity is important. Some practical tips taken from the study include:
Incorporate training around gender diversity and make sure this is championed by the board. It needs to be ongoing, regular sessions and not an annual event.
Present evidence and research on the positive impact of diversity – this is often the missing piece of the puzzle.
Expand your talent pool to ensure that you are attracting females in the first place. You need to consider your candidate attraction model and interview process. Even a simple change such as including a female interviewer in all candidate meetings can make a significant difference.
Finally, ensure performance is always tracked. Measure the impact of improved diversity on employee engagement, retention, and financial performance.
Phaidon International is the parent company of five leading specialist recruitment agencies. For more than 15 years, we have given clients and candidates the peace of mind that the recruitment process is in expert hands. Out continual investment in best-in-class technologies and consultant training enables us to recruit with speed, precision and accuracy. Today, we provide contingency, retained search and project-based contract recruitment across 11 offices in 6 countries. Contact us today to learn more about the company and the opportunities we offer.