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Meet the leaders of Phaidon International’s Operations

There are plenty champions of women at Phaidon International, none more so than within Operations. We are proud to say that five of our Operations departments are ran by women, fostering a culture of inclusiveness, recognition and reward since their very beginnings. 

Meet a number of our Operations leaders, who without, we could not be the talent partner we are today. Discover their proudest moments, the importance of International Women’s Day in the workplace to them, and how being a woman has helped and not hindered their careers. 

Establishing diversity and equality, as well as embracing being a women to succeed in business, is something all our Operations Directors have been a part of. Gail Brown, Group Compliance Director, sees being a senior person in the talent space as very exciting, especially because, “back in the day it was a very male dominated industry.” 

Gail has worked in compliance for the recruitment space for over 20 years, and is approaching her 10-year anniversary with Phaidon International. She started when the company was just 80 people around the world, now amassing 1600+. Here at Phaidon International we often bring graduates into our business and as Gail also points out, “they can see a business full of women at all levels, and see for themselves they also have an opportunity to go far, because they see senior women succeeding here.”

Proud moments 

A commonality between our Operations leaders is that they often have found their proudest moments have been watching their teams develop and progress. Suba Toumazi, Director of Technology, is particularly proud of supporting and developing IT professionals around the world, and is passionate about making a difference to Phaidon International by implementing technology solutions and business process improvements. 

Having an impact on others’ careers, as Kirsty Garner, Global Marketing Director, and Jo Bradley, Global Talent Director, both suggested, “shows that we have a drive to focus on others”, and in turn they then enjoy seeing the impact their teams have also had.

For Gail, she is most proud of starting something from new: 

“I’m most proud of creating departments from scratch, nurturing something, and watching it grow into a function that becomes an integral part of the business.”

And often it is the journey someone has been on that really matters, as Ulrica Hartogh, Chief HR Officer, summarises: 

“The impact I have had on someone’s career, seeing people take on new roles or relocate overseas for example. You remember when that person first joined your team, took on their first challenge and you see how far they have come.”

The importance of International Women’s Day 

International Women’s Day is celebrated every year on March 8th. However, while it is important to recognize the day, it is important to also recognize it every single day. For Kirsty, who joined Phaidon International in 2021 with a background in Financial Services as a love for growing brands internationally, as well as travel, it is a moment of reflection: 

“It is a moment to reflect, and a moment for people to understand why it is important and also ask the question of why it is important. We can understand each other’s challenges, and have the opportunity to talk about different experiences that we wouldn’t often have that time and space for.

Suba thinks it is really important to celebrate women’s successes, promote diversity in the workplace, and share the opportunities women have. International Women’s Day also gives space to embrace difference in people, and that women have a different role to play, according to Jo, “celebrating the value we have to people as women, our thought process about often putting others first for example. 

“It offers recognition for women who think about others being successful too, and sharing those stories and insights.”

For Gail; “It’s great to see how much Phaidon International has, in the past 10 years, moved towards and recognize how important it is to celebrate women. They have made a conscious effort to ensure gender equality is a priority across the business”. 

As Ulrica summarizes, who has always worked within the people space and joined Phaidon International in 2019, it is not about men versus women, or vice versa but, “a reminder of our role as women to support and encourage each other, and not do the opposite.”

How Phaidon International celebrates women 

Outside of International Women’s Day, Phaidon International supports women in multiple ways, one of which is through the new Future Female Leaders Program. 

Discover our interviews with Future Female Leaders Program attendees and architects.

Jo, who has been with Phaidon International since 2015, with a career dedicated to talent management, describes her role as the “best job in the business”. She has the “pleasure, privilege and honor of hiring amazing people into our business”, and gives people their first career opportunities, ultimately developing leaders of the future. After seeing feedback from the inaugural Future Female Leaders Program, Jo believes the program has made a fundamental difference: 

“Attendees have increased confidence, and increased the voices that our female population now have to make change. There has also been compelling feedback from male managers that have asked for this training as well and want to learn to be better too."

“The program is designed for women at all levels looking to move into leadership, with mixed groups in terms of tenure and experience. It is about sharing the values that we have as women, what hidden habits we might have that prevent us from being who we want to be, as well as giving women in the business the confidence to have good, challenging conversations that add value. It has created a forum where women understand how important mentorship is, to be a mentor and how to find a mentor to help them.”

Asides from Future Female Leaders, Phaidon International also has the Women in Networking Program to celebrate women in sales as another part of meaningful change, alongside supportive policies and initiatives such as enhanced parental leave. But as Ulrica says, “support goes beyond policies though, you can see the change in conversations and relationships.”

Embracing womanhood at work

We hear a lot about how women are oppressed or held back by gender in the workplace. However, our leaders here also acknowledge that there are a number of ways in which actually being a woman has helped them succeed, as opposed to holding them back. 

Kirsty believes that ‘softer skills’, often (but not always) attributed to women, has been a huge part of her career development: 

“What has helped me succeed in my career is leaning into that side of emotional intelligence. It’s important to use skills, often seen as ‘softer’ skills to your advantage, so knowing when something is off and when is best to speak up I think comes from me being a woman.”

Other skills our leaders believe have been fundamental to their progression include listening and collaborating with others. Ulrica notes that one skill she’s utilized is also offering a different perspective: 

“Women will have a different reference points and contexts in comparison to their male counterparts, even as a group of women here - we are all unique with different experiences.”

Advice to younger selves

International Women’s Day is often when many look back and see how far they have progressed, and consider what they would tell their younger selves in terms of being a woman in business. 

When Suba started in the technology industry, there weren’t that many women getting into it. Despite this, and people around her pressuring Suba to become a doctor, engineer, or an accountant, she found a career which suited her more and proved herself. Suba’s advice to herself, and young women in general at the start of their careers is to embrace the tech sector as there are some amazing projects and sectors to work in, so believe in yourself and do something you enjoy.

Over worrying as a youngster was a common denominator many of our leaders mentioned, either about what others thought, the expectations set on you, and even the costs of education. But believing in what you want and not being held back by stereotypes is often how these leaders have dealt with such challenges. 

Getting comfortable with yourself is one way to overcome such worry, and as Kirsty mentioned, “Your superpower is those ‘softer’ skills that make you the woman you are. You won’t think about it when you’re younger, but when you get older you realize leaning into that side of emotional intelligence will be your greatest strength.”

Visit our International Women’s Day Hub for more empowering stories across Phaidon International.