Monika

I head up the global Consumer and Shopper Engagement team – a wonderful international department of around 650 people who are in dialogue with families and children around the world, resolving their complaints, engaging with them on social media and providing service across different touchpoints, including sometimes writing to a 7-year-old explaining to her what it takes to become a LEGO designer one day. I am based in Slough in the UK.
Nicole

Can you give an example of support or inspiration you’ve experienced in your career?
I’ve had a number of fantastic female (and some male) leaders over my career. They have been a true inspiration to me, and as always with role models, I’ve copied different things from different women in a way that worked for me. I remember seeing a rather quiet, understated female leader asserting herself in meetings calmly, not allowing herself to be interrupted. I was making a note to remember how she did it. I have also really enjoyed working relationships and networks among women, and finding allies in men. I find that the atmosphere in teams is more positive and inclusive when there is a good gender balance, and where the leader role-models inclusive behaviour.

What biases have you experienced in your career and how have you overcome them?
Early on in my career, I was the business lead on an IT project working with a team of mainly men. In a meeting where I wasn’t present, concerns that I had expressed about the progress of the project were dismissed as “you know, Monika is quite emotional”. That really hit me, as I had created a solid argument and felt my perspective wouldn’t have been dismissed like this had I been a man. This sense of being “branded” or stereotyped by my gender felt grossly unfair, and it felt like agency was being removed from me. When I was younger, I probably over-compensated, for example by trying to be extra factual and analytical in meetings so that I wouldn’t be dismissed as “emotional” again. I watched what I said and maybe even came across a little harsh as a result. In more general terms, I remember many situations where I’ve found it harder to fit into very male-dominated teams. My opinion would be sought on people-related and “softer” topics, and it was assumed that I didn’t know much about budgets or finance (which was untrue). What helped me find my own path was seeing other women succeed whilst being themselves, finding allies, getting positive feedback from people whose opinions I valued, and also developing thicker skin and worrying less about what others think. Over the years, these things have helped me grow in confidence and enabled me to be true to myself at work and try to change the environments I could influence.

Monika

What’s something you’ve learned during the COVID-19 pandemic you would have never expected and what advice would you share with other women?
In my department, we really felt the explosion of eCommerce, and we had to very quickly double in size. I learned a lot about teamwork and having each other’s back. In addition to working virtually, my main learning was how even more so than usual, creating a safe team space where everyone is cared for was absolutely essential for us to survive, and helped us be successful when facing a rollercoaster of change. We were all working in each other’s living rooms and got glances into each other’s lives to an extend we had never done before. The only way to be was to feel safe in being yourself – it would have been too stressful to create a barrier between your private and your work selves. My advice would be, not just to women, to really leverage this learning and for us to preserve the safe spaces, and the authenticity, that has helped us support each other through 2020.

What advice would you give to this generation of girls about how to achieve their goals?
Stand up for each other as girls, compliment each other for expertise, creativity and smart contributions (you can always comment on the great dress, but that’s secondary) – support each other in growing your confidence. Also, think about what really matters to you and drives you in life, it will help you pursue your dreams when things get difficult. Apologise less, be loud, take up space and speak up! You’re awesome as you are.