Clare is well known and well-respected as a powerful and intelligent advocate for women in business. Her regular column here at the3rdimagazine is a must read piece for everyone with an interest in what it means to be a woman in the world today.
I met Clare at the delightful surroundings of the Scottish National Gallery to find more about her career and what continues to drive her to support women in business throughout the UK.
“I was born on The Wirral and first came to Scotland to study English Language and Literature at St. Andrews University. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I graduated and applied for a place on the graduate training scheme at Bank of Scotland. I got a place and remained with Bank of Scotland for 9 years, passing the Chartered Institute of Banking in the process. In fact I was the National Prizewinner for the Management & Business segment of MCIBS banking exams. I then took a Diploma in Direct Marketing. I wasn’t ever really interested in personal banking, the numbers, and was happy to move into marketing when I returned to the bank.”
“In 1995 I was involved in launching the first telephone banking operation with Centrebank and in 1996 moved to Glasgow as assistant to the General Managerr. As a result of the collapse of Barings, banks were having to look more closely at their operational risks and I was and was closely involved with the new ‘Risk & Compliance’ division before heading down to Chester and a role in strategy with the business banking division.”
“In 2000 I left the bank to join Allied Domecq as their Global Internal Communications Manager. The company owns many well known wine and spirit brands and had operations in 60 countries, with very different cultures. It was my job to ensure that a consistent message went out to each site and for each brand. For 2 years I travelled all over the world and in many ways it was a fantastic job. However, as with most things, people make the difference and since my boss was impossible to work for I left.”
“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next but I was determined to get control of my life back. I took over a jewellery shop in Bristol which I ran for 3 years. It was a big change to earn a living rather than draw a salary. While I enjoyed the experience in the end I missed being part of a team so when I was approached to consider rejoining Bank of Scotland to look specifically at women in business I took the job. Once again it was a blank sheet of paper. The bank gave me lots of time and space to develop the programme as they weren’t looking for a quick fix but to develop a coherent long-term strategy.”
“It was at this time that I really learned how to network and came to understand the benefits of having a network of influential contacts. The Women in Business programme was run for and from a business perspective. We weren’t interested in talking to business women about their retail banking needs, savings, holiday loans etc, but wanted to understand what women in business needed from the bank in order to grow their businesses. It was a a great programme to be involved in and exciting times as I was also head of corporate sponsorship and event management. The bank supported workshops through to week long conferences and became widely recognised as the bank for women. In addition, I became involved with the World Bank IFC’s Global Gender Program and became Chair of the Global Banking Alliance for Women 2006-2008 ( www.gbaforwomen.org ), which was an amazing experience””
“In 2008, as everyone knows, the whole of the banking sector collapsed and the programme lost both funding and momentum. I took the opportunity to leave the bank and to leave London, returning to Edinburgh as Strategic Director at Independent Women. I had known Lesley for a number of years, in fact I had almost joined Independent Women on a couple of occasions, and this time the opportunity came at just the right time and I happily moved back to Edinburgh.”
“I continue to be passionately interested in issues affecting women, from the tired mantra of faux equality and the tedious routine sexism of the mainstream media to initiatives to get more women into the boardroom. With all the great work being done to get more women onto UK Boards, I started to think about AMBITION in its broadest sense – what does it mean for women, especially post 2008 when the appalling corporate behaviours, doubtful political wisdom (especially across certain European countries), seemingly endless bailouts and gloomy recession have really turned upside down the thrusting, success-and-material-accumulation of the earlier 2000′s. Do women aspire to be on corporate boards? If so, do we support quotas to get them there? And if they don’t have that particular aspiration, but they do want influence and impact – what does that look like and how do they achieve that? The first debate was held in London in November 2011 and will be followed by an event in Edinburgh in February 2012.”