The Regional Head of Human Resource (HR) at Standard Chartered Bank for Africa and the Middle East, Ms Millicent Clarke, has observed that over the years, biases against females in the corporate world has significantly reduced, as many organisations begin to tap into the immerse potential of women for growth in their businesses.
She said this has led to many women taking up key management positions in all sectors of the corporate world and contributing to decisions that shape business.
Reflecting on changes in the workplace, she commented that people appreciate that women are naturally endowed with leadership skills, which when properly harnessed leads to growth in businesses.
Speaking to the GRAPHIC BUSINESS on a range of issues on human capital, Ms. Clarke, said previously, men were generally more comfortable working with their male colleagues resulting in hiring males over females, whenever the opportunity arose.
Female executives had to work twice as hard as their male counterparts in a bid to prove themselves worthy, she noted that she had personally encountered unconscious biases on her way up the ladder.
Fortunately, however, such perceptions are now on the decline as women continue to prove their worth with every opportunity offered them.
Flexible working policies
Ms. Clarke said it is refreshing that men are now beginning to understand the issue of gender at the workplace.
On how Standard Chartered fares on the issue of gender, she said the bank has a plan in place to get more females into executive positions.
Standard Chartered, an international bank group with presence in over 60 markets, has pledged to increase the number of females on its executive level to 30 per cent by 2020. The bank’s executive level currently boasts of 26.5 per cent women and Ms Clarke is confident that the number will increase to 30 in two years’ time. In Ghana, the Bank is led by Ms. Mansa Nettey and there is a 50% female representation on the Ghana management team.
She said the bank had also introduced new policies that were friendlier to women as part of efforts to ensure their comfort as they operate.
“We have a flexible working policy which includes agile working. There is also a new parental policy, which gives women five months paid maternity leave. Other organisations generally have three months,” she said.
Ms. Clarke spoke passionately about the Bank’s Goal programme. “Standard Chartered is committed to providing positive social and economic development within the communities where we operate. Our community programmes focus on health and education, with youth as a target demographic.”
“Goal is our global education programme for adolescent girls and young women. Through sports and life skills training we equip girls with the confidence, knowledge and skills they need to be leaders in their communities. Goal is currently operational in 40 markets that the bank operates, including Ghana, where some 1,400 girls have so far benefited.”
She explained that the programme allows girls to peer-coach each other with positive attitudes and attributes that can help boost their confidence. Goal is about empowering girls globally through education and sport. With Goal we are also able to show local communities that girls are powerful individuals who can make a significant difference in where they live. We need to invest in girls if we want a better future. Girls are the backbone of our communities.
Through the Goal curriculum we hope to shatter stereotypes and norms that prevent girls from fulfilling their potential. With Goal we want to celebrate the power and potential of girls. Girls are potential leaders and have the power to change the world.
The career path
Sharing her perspective on HR in general, she said young professionals need to note that every stage of the corporate ladder required different tactics to survive and climb.
At the initial stages, she said people normally work as individuals to prove that they can do it. However, as they mature into leadership, team spirit becomes crucial.
At her current age and level of attainment, Ms. Clarke said she is now focusing on “being a multiplier, who develops leaders to be able to leave a legacy of transformational leaders across Africa and Middle East.”
Ghanaian born Ms. Clarke joined Standard Chartered in August 2013 as the Regional Head of Talent for Africa, she advanced to Head of HR Africa in December the same year. In 2015, she became Regional Head, HR & Head Talent & Learning, AME Region
Before joining Standard Chartered, she was Head of HR, Retail and Business Banking for Barclays Africa. She has also worked with Maersk, a shipping firm, where she rose to Organizational Development Executive for Africa before leaving in 2006.
She is an independent board member of Maersk South Africa and was also appointed to the Standard Chartered Bank Zimbabwe Board of Directors in August 2016 as a Non-Executive Director, as well as a member of the Board Risk Committee.