As part of our annual IWD celebrations we sat down with four inspirational and successful women in the Tech space to discuss their thoughts on International Women’s Day, and its impact it has on wider diversity issues as well as the challenges women continue to face within the Tech world. I’d like to thank them for their time and insights.
Helen Bierton, as Chief Banking Officer oversees Starling’s personal and business bank accounts and leads marketing. Prior to Starling, she spent 24 years in banking, working for Santander, Alliance & Leicester and NatWest, where she has launched new products and services for customers.
As Chair of their internal women’s network she led a team that supported more than 3,200 women. She is also a retired sportswoman, having competed for Great Britain in Archery at the Athens Olympic Games in 2004.
What was your biggest challenge being a woman when you started your career?
For me, the biggest challenge wasn’t being a woman when I started my career. I felt incredibly empowered and lucky, I was successful in applying for a career I was interested in, and through hard work, I was given many opportunities. My biggest challenge came when I had children. Being on maternity leave and returning to work. It’s not easy working and having a family. However, I think that there are a couple of things that have made a big difference to me, firstly technology, it allows me to work flexibly but also be available if I’m needed – so I can manage my work and my family; and secondly, an incredibly inclusive work environment, that supports its employees.
If you could single one out – what has had the greatest impact on gender diversity in the UK over the last 20 years?
I think this is too complex an issue to summarise as singling one thing out, so I won’t. But I will pull together the elements that I think are important and are making a difference: firstly, having people who champion it, I work for an inspirational leader, Anne Boden, Starling Bank’s CEO and founder, who appoints the best people and has built a diverse team. Secondly, an ability to call out behaviour which isn’t right; more appropriate corporate governance and culture are enabling people to speak up if situations aren’t acceptable. Finally, a recognition that it’s diversity of all forms that is important.
When it comes to diversity what makes you most proud of Starling Bank?
My team is incredibly diverse and I think that this is one of the reasons we work together so well. In terms of the wider business, diversity in Starling is somewhat organic. Across gender, culture, age, race, religion and sexual orientation, we ensure that everyone feels valued at the workplace and I am incredibly lucky to be a part of it.
How do you feel about International Women’s Day?
Days like this that shine a spotlight on an agenda are incredibly useful, as they prompt debate while providing a reason to celebrate women.
Thank you again to Helen for your time and contribution to our celebration of International Women’s Day, it has been a pleasure to meet you.