‘Your struggles create your strengths’

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Jemma Wood Hope Capital WIF

In our latest Women in Finance Interview, Tony Sanchez speaks to Jemma Wood, Head of Portfolio Management at Hope Capital.

Jemma is responsible for managing the portfolio management team and oversees the timely redemption of client’s loans.

Through strong and effective communication with all parties involved, Jemma helps to provide appropriate solutions even when the circumstances are complex.

What brought you into financial services?

It happened by accident really, I had worked in insolvency for 14 years and wanted a career change and found that a lot of the skills were transferable into the financial services sector.

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

Successful leadership isn’t about the individual. Leadership is about what you can give to enable others to move forward, grow and succeed.

In my opinion, I think that women do this so successfully as we have a natural tendency for commitment, empathy, nurture and resilience.

All these traits are just as essential to lead within the workplace as they are to support our families.

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

Probably the same as what most women would say…trying to navigate around a traditionally male dominated industry.

There have definitely been times in the past where I have not been as respected or taken as seriously as my male counterparts.

It’s refreshing to now work for a company like Hope Capital where everyone is treated equally and with complete respect.

What’s your own personal mantra?

Your struggles create your strengths.

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

As I’m sure many women have experienced, there have been times in my life where I have felt that I have struggled to maintain a work-life balance and I’ve been racked with guilt for prioritising one over the other.

What I have learned is that the happier and more present I am within my home life, the more productive, successful I am at work. Therefore, for me, the key to work-life balance starts at home as a foundation for a successful career.

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

Go easy on yourself! As women we can be very self-critical and hard on ourselves.

While we have no problem with showing compassion and encouragement for others, we struggle to treat ourselves the same.

However, I now realise that where this has historically worked against me and held me back, it can in fact be used for positive change and continuous improvement.

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

Don’t change yourself to try and fit the mould.

Many women think they have to act and behave like men in order to achieve leadership positions, when in fact, many traits that are deemed typically female aren’t weaknesses, they are strengths.

Recognising this and trusting your ability is key.

What do you think is holding women back?

Most likely confidence, coupled with lack of opportunities and representation. There is no denying that we all like to feel that we can relate to something or someone. Representation is therefore the driver of equality in the workplace.

Working for a company which has strong workers and leaders who come from diverse backgrounds, means a message is sent that success is not limited to one specific type of person.

This is so influential in terms of the confidence and encouragement this gives to people, who have traditionally not been given the same opportunities as others have.

Do you think there is still a glass ceiling?

Unfortunately, I believe there is still a long way to go to even the playing field.

While I’m very fortunate that this isn’t the case at Hope Capital, you only have to look around within the wider industry to realise there are still instances of gender bias in financial services.

This includes women who are earning less than men while doing the same job, being perceived as incompetent, receiving less support and so on.

To break this ceiling, a conversation needs to be sparked on the issues, why the problems exist and how it can be improved.

People who think this is acceptable, need to be accountable.

What are your thoughts on the Women in Finance Charter? 

I think it’s a fantastic initiative, as long as it’s helping women of all different backgrounds and circumstances and that we as women consider intersectionality.

It is impossible to categorise women as all being the same, as we’re not.

As well as the social barriers which exist between men and women, some women have more opportunities and privileges than others, so it needs to reflect and benefit various situations, rather than just looking at it as one issue.

How do we encourage more women into financial services? 

Of course, men have a role to play in this, but I also think women have a critical part to play too.

By women supporting and encouraging each other, in turn, more women will hopefully have the confidence to work in the financial services and go for leadership positions.

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

Pay women what they are worth! It’s really that simple.

What is your biggest achievement to date?

I would have to say my daughter. I love watching her grow and turn into a mini, strong independent female, it makes me very proud.