Odgers Berndtson’s community of practice for female leaders

05 Mar 2021

Odgers Berndtson’s community of practice for female leaders

Our Female Leadership Development team speaks to Yvonne Hill, an independent non-executive director for Zurich Life Insurance PLC, Amtrust International Underwriters and AIB Group subsidiaries, AIB Mortgage Bank and EBS d.a.c, about her experiences in Odgers Berndtson’s community of practice for emerging female leaders.

What has your experience been of Odgers Berndtson’s female leadership community?

I have been part of the community for about two and a half years. Before the pandemic we’d meet in person around once a quarter. However once COVID-19 kicked in, the meetings became virtual and moved to weekly touchpoints as everyone found them so helpful and supportive.

It has been hugely beneficial to listen to the experiences of others, particularly when they work in different functions or roles. I’m in finance, so hearing the perspectives from people in marketing or operations, especially in non-financial services, has helped me gain a wider view of what’s going on in the business environment and broaden my own understanding of different areas and industries.

What are some of the benefits of the community?

A real advantage of the community forum groups is that the discussion topics are not all focused on work life balance and are not aimed at younger women ‘trying to do it all at once’. This is a pitfall a lot of female leadership groups fall into and it’s not what everyone wants from them. Odgers Berndtson’s female leadership community caters to a wider sphere of influence, providing perspectives from real people who are dealing with challenging situations in the workplace. For example, it might be around how someone has dealt with a difficult manager or how someone secured a promotion.

How do the forums usually work?

At the in person pre-Covid breakfast meetings, we were usually split into pre-defined groups with a mix of people from different backgrounds and experiences. Each meeting has a specific topic and there is always an active participation and a willingness by all to share experiences and discuss how we can positively influence and shape the companies we work in. One of the really beneficial things about the Odgers meetings is the informal conversations. Often we discuss a challenge someone is facing in a specific industry or function, and a lot of the time I’ll come across someone who is dealing with something that I may have dealt with myself and I can share my experiences and advice.

When the pandemic began, the weekly topics were around how different members were managing with the disruption and keeping their organisations running and people safe. This was extremely practical advice and I was able to feed the learnings and back to my own boards.

The forums are very agile to what people need, the information that is shared is often invaluable, and each discussion has a moderator so things stay on topic. It is a very good network to be a part of.