Today is International Women's Day. We're celebrating the contribution of women both within GAMA and beyond. This year's theme is #PressforProgress. In that spirit, we sat down with Administrative Director, Suzie Hammouche, to talk about her journey within GAMA and women in leadership and with International Sales Director, Joanne Hardwick, to talk about attitudes to gender in sales.
Suzie is currently GAMA's Administrative Director but is soon moving to take the role of CEO in the Australian entity.
How did you start out in GAMA?
I moved to the UK from New Zealand in 2010 and found an advert on Gumtree for Office Manager and PA. I sent the application directly to "Guy Braverman, MD," and, of the 600-odd applications they had, I was lucky enough to be called in for an interview.
How did you progress to where you are now?
I have been given so many incredible opportunities at GAMA but I have always believed that I am responsible for my own development. I look at the role or position I want and assess the capabilities needed, what my current skill set is and then work on filling the gap between my current abilities and the role I want.
My most recent opportunity in Australia was after GAMA acquired their distributor. I spent a Sunday preparing an "Operational Audit" proposal detailing how we needed to review the new acquisition's current business processes and see how we could align them to our own. I sent it to the owners of the business and said that I thought I was the best person to conduct it. Luckily they agreed with me, and that set in motion my relocation to Australia.
Why did you feel confident enough to do that?
I'm one of three girls, and was raised by parents that never made me believe I couldn't achieve what I wanted – as long as I worked for it. We have that same environment at GAMA. We have 54% women in GAMA and it just never occurred to me that the owners wouldn't accept my proposal because of my gender.
Do you have any advice for women looking to get into leadership roles?
Everyone should utilise every resource that they have and not be afraid to ask for help. Even now, I have so many different people in the company supporting me to develop further. Try to identify people within your organisation who have capabilities you'd like to have, or who you admire. Ask them for advice, support or even mentoring.
I heard a piece of advice recently, where someone said if you don't feel valued, then take your labour elsewhere. In GAMA, I've never been made to feel I couldn't achieve anything because of my gender. I've been lucky enough to find something I love, and then call it my job.
Joanne Hardwick is GAMA's International Sales Director. She has been working in healthcare sales for over 20 years. She balances a family with a global sales portfolio.
Sales has traditionally been perceived as a male-dominated industry. Why do you think that is?
There was a perception that women weren't strong enough for the role, they weren't effective at hard selling and closing a deal. Sales typically involves a lot of time away from home and it was thought women wouldn't be willing to make that sacrifice, or that they'd be vulnerable travelling on their own.
How did you overcome this perception?
The truth is, I had to work harder. Women had to work harder and do more to get the same recognition as a man.
Do you think things are changing?
Yes, definitely. Changes to legal frameworks, like shared paternity leave, are helping. There's wider recognition that women have different, but equal skills. Selling is increasingly about relationships and engaging stakeholders and women are often good at this because they typically think in a more complex and emotional way.
You have an international role, do you think you are treated differently to men?
If you build a position of internal respect, it shows itself externally. In global markets, our customers see the respect and authority that GAMA has given me and they reflect this.
What advice do you have for women wanting it all?
You have to realise you can't do everything, but you can balance family and work. From a personal perspective it becomes more about quality of time, rather than volume. From a professional perspective it helps to have clear goals and try to focus on the big things. Lastly, don't feel guilty for not being at every family event or taking advantage of the flexibility that GAMA or your company offer to balance work/home life.
With the World Economic Forum's 2017 Global Gender Gap Report findings telling us that gender parity is over 200 years away - there has never been a more important time to keep motivated and #PressforProgress. GAMA is committing to the #PressForProgress campaign and:
Happy International Women's Day!