As part of our support for International Women’s Day “Choose to Challenge”, we invited women in leadership to discuss their views on gender inequality and related issues. Last week, we heard from Fatima Chawdhury and Emily Georgiadis. For this #IWD2021 Ringside, we caught up with Louise Newbury-Smith. Louise is the regional vice president for the UK enterprise team. She leads a sales team that helps new and existing customers communicate simply and effectively using RingCentral services.
Can you tell us about yourself?
I have just completed my second year at RingCentral and love it! I enjoy being in a fast-paced business that’s a leader in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) industry. My horses, dogs and husband help keep me balanced.
What’s been the driving force to get you where you are today and have you benefited from having any personal mentors?
I’ve been fortunate to have been supported throughout my career by brilliant colleagues. You get back what you put in, and once your peers realise you are ‘all in’, you become a driving force together.
Years ago, I received some honest advice from the IT Director of Mercedes-Benz when they said, “Mediocrity will not be tolerated.” We laughed about it later, but at the time it motivated me to strive to be better.
I’m also incredibly motivated by my ridiculously expensive hobby. Horses are a bit of an affliction, but I could not be without them. They give me great balance. You must concentrate whilst riding. Otherwise, it’s easy to end up on the floor! They are great levellers and mirror your state of mind. If you are worried, they will worry too, so they force you to breathe and calmly focus on what you want to achieve.
In terms of mentors, I invest in a professional coach, someone I met through the “Unleash Your Leadership Potential” courses at RingCentral. I found the coaching so helpful that I continued on a one-to-one basis. I’ve also recently been the beneficiary of some time from one of our women in our senior leadership team, which I’m very grateful for.
Advice on the glass ceiling: Punch through it! It's only a ceiling if you let it be. Listen to other women's experiences of what it took to work their way up to leadership and learn from them. Click To Tweet
What advice would you pass on to other women to help them progress and overcome issues associated with ‘the glass ceiling’ in our industry?
Punch through it! It’s only a ceiling if you let it be.
I’d also say to listen to other women’s experiences of what it took to work their way to leadership and learn from them. The EMEA team invites inspirational women within and outside our industry to share personal stories of the challenges they faced and overcame. We’ve been so fortunate that the speaker series has been supported by C-level women who have challenged themselves in entirely new roles or initiatives. The feedback has been tremendous. It’s an initiative that we want to continue in 2021 and share with our colleagues globally.
Why do you think we still have so few female leaders (vs. male as a percentage of total leadership) in the technology sector?
I feel it’s a reflection of the fewer women in the sector, and we need to resolve the issue at the core to have a long term and sustainable resolution to the challenge.
The country made significant improvements to the gender pay gap. In 2020, the gap reduced to 15.5% in the UK. According to ONS’s data, it seems that the gap is more prevalent in those aged over 40, so logic would dictate this problem will reduce in the future. But right now, I believe the root cause is the economic decisions that families have to make, ie who earns less is more likely to be the person at home looking after children. If we have equal pay, then we would have equal gender presence in the workplace, and therefore many more women would progress to leadership roles.
Many women want to feel they have the skills, competencies, and experience to cover 100% of any new job role, and that can sometimes hold us back from making that leap. Instead, we need to embrace that fear of failure and use it as motivation to achieve our own goals.
How has COVID-19 impacted your work life balance and responsibilities outside of work? Any words of wisdom you can share on how you’ve managed the past 12 months?
We’ve all shared some common challenges through this time. I’ve missed my friends and family and face-to-face interaction with our customers and colleagues. I haven’t missed the commute, though; that time has soon been diverted elsewhere!
I wouldn’t say I have words of wisdom for other people, but I am trying to move away from the desk and do calls whilst walking around the garden. That’s easier on some days than others with the British weather we’ve been ‘enjoying’! I have to go and get the horses in at lunchtime, so that forces me to get away from the desk for 20 minutes, and the team are quite used to seeing me with the phone in one hand and a horse in the other. We need to use simple methods to book meetings for 15 or 20 minutes, rather than half-hour/hour blocks, to give ourselves some thinking and preparation time in between.
Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share on International Women’s Day and (as part of this) the topics we’ve discussed today?
My final thought on International Women’s Day is that it’s great to celebrate our progress and achievements, and it’s critical to support each other. Of course, it’s wonderful if you have sponsors to help you, and you should actively seek those out by expressing your goals and not waiting to be asked.
Many women want to feel they have the skills, competencies, and experience to cover 100% of any new job role, and that can sometimes hold us back from making that leap. Instead, we need to embrace that fear of failure. Click To Tweet
Thank you to Louise for insight on what women can do to overcome adversity and progress to leadership. It was also brilliant to hear about the initiatives RingCentral runs to support women in the business.
Watch out for our next #IWD2021 Ringside later this week.
Originally published Mar 01, 2021, updated Mar 08, 2021