‘There’s a real pressure on women to ‘have it all’’

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phoebe-sellars bridge help women in finance(1)

In our latest Women in Finance Interview, Tony Sanchez speaks to Phoebe Sellars, business development manager at Bridge Help.

Phoebe joined Bridge Help in 2020. She made the move from the legal services sector at the height of the pandemic.

The move to Bridge Help not only represented a change of industry but also a change of career. Responsible for building relationships with Bridge Help’s broker and client network,

Phoebe thrives on the fast pace of the sector. She said: “I get a real kick out of finding a solution to a deal that can seem impossible. There is always a new approach – you just need to find it.”

What brought you into financial services?

The move into financial services was inspired by my father who works in bridging finance.

I was working in legal services when the pandemic hit and I was furloughed.

I was bored and unable to work but saw that the bridging loan sector was able to adapt quickly and continue in the face of a global pandemic was a revelation to me.

My dad’s enthusiasm and energy for the bridging finance sector was infectious and I knew that it was for me.

It has everything; people, problem solving and the fact that no two deals are ever the same, which is great and helps keeps me on my toes!

What do you think makes a successful leader? And in particular women leaders?

A great leader, whatever their gender, should be the biggest cheerleader for their team.  The best teams and their leaders are the collaborative ones, where everyone’s success is celebrated together

It’s important to see people holistically rather than just looking at KPIs. People do their best when they feel valued, respected and that they are part of something.

What are the biggest barriers you have faced in your career in financial services?

Joining an industry in the midst of a global pandemic and during a lockdown brought its own unique set of challenges.

It was pretty much a sink or swim moment given that we were all forced to work remotely. I definitely swam and that experience set me up to be able to adapt to pretty much anything. Nothing phases me now.

I have been really fortunate to not have encountered any barriers in my career in financial services.

In some sectors I have worked, women have sometimes seen each other as the ‘competition’ and that has resulted in an environment in which it’s difficult to thrive.

This definitely isn’t something I have experienced in the financial services sector and maybe this is because it is male dominated.

Although, it seems we are changing that at Bridge Help one appointment at a time. Right now, the entire BDM team is female.

If you could tell your younger self one thing you know about business now, what would it be? 

I’d tell my younger self to have more confidence in herself and not be afraid to make mistakes, but make sure she learns from them!

What’s your own personal mantra?

Work hard and be kind.

What do you think is key for finding a successful work-life balance?

Covid has blurred the lines between work and home. If you’re miserable at work, this spills over into you home life and vice versa.

Having a job you love is fundamental to having a successful work life balance. I genuinely love what I do, and that really does make all the difference.

Few jobs are 9-5 anymore and flexible working is becoming ever more important for people to be able to achieve a work-life balance.

What’s one key leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way?

Regardless of whatever industry I have worked in, I have learned that success is a team sport.

What advice do you have for women aiming for leadership positions?

I read somewhere that men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them.

Men are confident about their ability at 60%, but women don’t feel confident until they’ve checked off each item on the list. My advice: women need to have more faith in themselves.

Changing career and industry at the height of the pandemic was a huge learning curve for me.

The traditional support network of an office full of people just wasn’t there when I started so I was, to a large extent, forced to get on with it.

That experience gave me confidence in my ability and faith that I can achieve whatever I put my mind to, even if I am only at 60%.

What do you think is holding women back?

I think many women suffer from imposter syndrome, that feeling that you’re not quite good enough or as competent as others perceive us to be.

Some of the most incredible, successful women I know really struggle with this, and that breaks my heart. I’d love for them to see themselves through my eyes.

I think this is the case not only in financial services but in our careers in general.

There is a real pressure on women to ‘have it all’, and the weight of that expectation can be crushing.

Do you think there is still a glass ceiling?

I don’t think the glass ceiling has fully shattered yet but there are definitely huge cracks in it that are getting bigger every day. The sooner it disappears the better as there needs to be better representation of women in senior leadership roles.

What are your thoughts on the Women in Finance Charter? 

I think the charter is a great initiative as long as companies use it and believe in it rather than just signing it because it makes them look good.

How do we encourage more women into financial services? 

Representation is a good starting point. We need to dispel the ‘Old Boys Club’ stereotypes that exist in the financial services sector and show women how vibrant, interesting and varied the industry really is.

The entire BDM team at Bridge Help is female and I’m very proud of that, as it shows they recognise Bridge Help as a place they can grow their career and be empowered

The gender pay gap is only second worst to the construction industry. What can organisations do to address this?

Transparency is key, alongside a commitment by employers to pay according to the performance and value of their employees, not their gender.

What is your biggest achievement to date?

Personally, I am very proud to be the youngest ever trustee of Citizens Advice Chesterfield, a volunteer organisation that helps those who are in need in the local area.

I took on the challenge in 2021 as I wanted to give something back, particularly in the wake of the pandemic.

I live and work in Chesterfield and feel passionately about strengthening the community that I live in, work in and love.

Citizens Advice Chesterfield does such good work for so many people in my home town and I’m very proud to be part of it.