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‘The next generation of female leaders need to be empowered to take their rightful position’

‘The next generation of female leaders need to be empowered to take their rightful position’

We were delighted to welcome Fiona Ryder, President of the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, as our guest speaker for the Women’s Leadership Programme Sponsors’ Dinner on Wednesday 30th January.

As one of only two women to ever hold the office of President at the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, in her inaugural speech Fiona expressed her desire to promote the modernisation of corporate culture and boardrooms to ensure better economic outcomes. As a real champion of initiatives that effect positive change for our region, the award-winning entrepreneur, mother of three and prominent business leader was an inspiring guest.

We also took the opportunity to interview Fiona and share more about her career progression, her new role as president of the Chamber and her ambitions to help businesses recognise where they may be limiting their economic growth by conscious or unconscious bias.

  1. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I started my first company at the age of 26 and I’ve since grown several successful businesses including The Cube Group of Companies, an in-store audio visual and marketing business for high street retailers, which I sold for a seven-figure sum to a plc in 2006. Many local people will be familiar with my role as the founding Managing Director of Mustard TV. Being involved from the start meant developing the local TV station from scratch, including writing the winning bid to secure the licence from Ofcom.

I’m currently the Managing Director of TCD Media, a broadcast and digital production company based in Norfolk. Alongside this, I hold a range of Non-Executive Director positions including the Ipswich Building Society and the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce. I’m a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Honorary Treasurer of the Royal Television Society (East).

  1. Why did you agree to speak at the Women’s Leadership Programme event in January?

I know it can be hard to deal with prejudice and negative stereotypes of women in the workplace, whether it is conscious or unconscious bias in a culture where women are still largely the ones to take career breaks while raising a family. The next generation of female leaders need to be empowered to take their rightful positions. I hope that by sharing some of my own experiences, I will be able to help embolden and motivate more women to progress up the career ladder.

  1. What are the biggest challenges facing female professionals in our region?

We still face a gender imbalance within the senior management teams and boards of our region’s organisations. In fact we are approximately seven years behind the FTSE 350 in terms of gender diversity on boards. There are so many positive business benefits to boards which are gender balanced and I want to encourage meritocracies, where people are selected as business leaders based on their merit, whatever their gender or background.

  1. What do you think stops female professionals from aspiring to progress to senior management or board level roles?

Women can unintentionally hold themselves back from progressing up the career ladder because of a tendency to be more modest about their achievements. As a result they are not always as good at putting themselves forward for promotions. They need to have the confidence to go for it and not simply hope that hard work will get them noticed.

  1. How do you think training programmes, like the Women’s Leadership Programme, can address these challenges?

The Women’s Leadership Programme helps women to address the factors which might be consciously or unconsciously holding them back. It will give them the tools and confidence to succeed at higher levels. It also makes employers more aware of the issues faced by women and helps them to understand how they can explore their talent pipeline and look to overcome any barriers which may be preventing inclusive progression.

  1. How do you think the Women’s Leadership Programme will make a difference to individual participants?

It will really help the delegates to enhance their confidence as well as developing their leadership skills. It will give them the support they need to take the next step in their career, build their courage, networks and help them to understand and counteract any ingrained negative stereotypes.   

  1. How do you think the Women’s Leadership Programme will make a difference to participating organisations?

The organisations showing the commitment to supporting their aspiring female talent to progress are also helping to create role models within their organisation and the wider region. The Women’s Leadership Programme is developing a network of like-minded professionals who will help to inspire and support each other. By participating, organisations will also help to evolve cultures and reduce the stereotypes which can hold women back.

  1. How is the Norfolk Chamber promoting the development of leaders and talent in our region?

As only the second female President of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, I’m championing the need for cultural innovation in businesses. The key is to aspire for balance in our board rooms and senior management teams. I want to highlight, support and promote the women already in leadership positions and help businesses to understand and recognise where they may be limiting their economic growth by conscious or unconscious bias.