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Four ways to reach your leadership goals

Posted on Tuesday, Mar 10, 2015

Jackie Burns headshot 2015A combination of individual action and social and organizational change will improve gender equality at all levels, says Hays VP Jackie Burns in this International Women's Day profile.

As Vice President, Western Region, Jackie Burns oversees Hays BC’s business responsible for a team of more than 30 consultants.  With more than 10 years at Hays, starting as an associate in 2004, she has held a number of management roles including managing a smaller office in Scotland and the office professionals division, before moving to Vancouver to help establish the Hays office there.

 “As a Recruitment Consultant at Hays, performance is very transparent and I never felt that I was judged differently because I was a female,” she says “I have heard stories from friends who have felt a ‘glass ceiling’ still exists within the workplace, particularly in traditionally male-dominated industries such as mining and construction.”

Over the years Jackie has heard comments – both positive and negative – about being a female manager but says that is becoming less common.

“I have had more than one male member of my team comment in the past that he had not had a female boss before and that it took a bit of adjusting to and one consultant in particular in the past who did have a chip on his shoulder at reporting to a female manager, but I think is in the minority now – my husband also reports to me and he has no problem with it!”

Gender equality made the news again last month when Patricia Arquette highlighted pay inequalities in her Oscars speech. Women in Canada on average earn 74 cents for every $1 earned by a man – and men still make up almost 80 per cent of senior managers. The trend is changing, and Jackie says a combination of individual action and social and organizational change will help improve equality at all levels.

“I do think that if anything women are less likely to question their pay or ask for more when accepting a job – maybe that is something we should all be aware of,” Jackie says. “Women still face challenges in balancing a work and home life regardless of what anyone says and the burden of child rearing still often sits with a woman.  This inevitably can stall career progress, if even only for a short period of time, and not everyone has the desire or luxury of not going back to work full time if they want.”

Jackie, who recently signed up for a Women in Leadership mentoring program through WXN, says she hopes being successful in her role inspires others.

“I have tried to demonstrate to people that have worked for me that being a women should not limited your career opportunities or aspirations and I can honestly say it has never crossed my mind that I could not do a job because I am a woman.”

Four steps to success

1.  Play to your strengths
You don’t need to be “one of the boys”  to succeed. The best teams are most often made up of complementary skills and women can often bring a different perspective to situations. 

2. Set career goals
Knowing what your objectives are and not being afraid to go after them might mean having to make difficult decisions at times, but you have to accept that others are responsible for their actions too and that you can find a balance between setting expectations and managing performance in a respectful way.

3. Ask for what you want

Speak up if an opportunity presents itself to take on more responsibility and ask for support or training if you don’t have the skills required for your next career move.

4. Look for a mentor
If you find someone that you admire, make time to ask their advice, observe how they act and what has made them successful in the first place – that goes for men or women!


Read the Hays Global Gender Diversity Report for insights into workplace equality around the world.

Hays North America is a sponsor and member of Women's Executive Network.

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