I was recently having a conversation with a friend about my job and he made an off-the-cuff comment that really got to me. I’m female and Head of Finance of Viridian Financial Group; he commented that my being female played a big role in me getting this job. He felt that equality has evolved now to mean that females have an advantage in everything today. If a man and a woman were going for the same role, he believed that the woman would almost always be selected.
What really frustrated me was how deeply this comment lodged in my brain. I knew rationally that he was wrong but, emotionally, I started to wonder whether he was right. I questioned if perhaps I’m not that smart and I’m only in my job because I’m a woman. The comment started to chip away at my confidence, even changing my perception of new conversations, and I started to see how this could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. How often are women generalized as lacking confidence? How often do comments like this cause a lack of confidence?
A few days later I asked my boss, Glenn Calder (our CEO), whether Viridian had hired me because I was a woman and he laughed “name any person that could do your job as well as you do”.
I see Glenn’s reaction as indicative of the executive team’s leadership sentiment. They’ve always focused on talent. It was a team of male executives and an all-male board that offered me my job. They did so because they knew that I was good at what I did and they’ve been gender-blind every step of the way since. No reference is made to my gender or age – these guys just look at talent and that’s the way it should be.
Personally I believe that equality should be exactly that – equal. Equality really means ignoring gender and focusing on talent and drive. Since I started at Viridian, the company has secured an HR director, two compliance heads and a contracted M&A specialist who are all female. More importantly, they are all talented and that is just what we want.
I enjoy working in a place that is gender-blind. I truly believe that no candidate at Viridian has ever been assessed based on anything other than their talent – everyone is here because of what they can do.
As a result, Viridian has become a collective of the most intelligent people I’ve met. It’s an environment that really pushes all of us forward together.
Abigail Barnard is Head of Finance and Audit at Viridian Advisory