According to the Institute of Interim Management (IIM)’s ‘Interim Management Survey 2021’, just over 1 in 4 (25.2%) interims are women. The number has risen over the past decade and as more women embrace interim management, the gender gap can be closed.
Working as interims can provide women with the perfect work solution, enabling them to enjoy the benefits of a rewarding and challenging career – being able to lend their considerable expertise and add considerable value from day one – while also retaining the flexibility to juggle other commitments and enhance their work-life balance.
To celebrate International Women’s Day, four female interims discuss the incredible learning curve and the challenges they’ve faced during their careers. They share lots of invaluable insight from their varied experiences. Louise Clifton, the first of the interims we interviewed, urges anyone considering making the switch to interim to “Just go for it! The only regret I have is not doing it sooner”.
Learn more from the HR transformation programme consultant who has worked across a range of industry sectors, having spent over 20 years’ delivering strategic business goals for her clients.
“…I am comfortable not being right for everyone. I need to be right for me”
What advice would you give to females considering moving into interim?
LC: “Just go for it! The only regret I have is not doing it sooner. There were two things that prevented me from being brave enough to make the leap: 1) marketing myself and 2) financial stability when in between assignments. When it comes to marketing yourself, I’ve had the most success from reconnecting with old contacts and maintaining an active network. I really leverage my track record, am present and active on LinkedIn and always stay in touch with ex-colleagues that I’d like to work with again. Your CV and LinkedIn profile must stand out – you want to make a statement and quantify achievements, not just add a list of day-to-day responsibilities. For managing finances between assignments, my top tip is to build a financial ‘buffer’. I’ve been very lucky and transitioned directly from one assignment to the next, but I know I can pay the bills for at least six months if there is a gap.”
What do you wish you’d known when you first started?
LC: “This may be specific to HR, but I was amazed and disappointed at how some of my relationships shifted with longstanding recruitment contacts. I went from executive to rookie in a day and had to prove myself all over again. It changed my view of the candidate experience, that’s for sure. As an interim, I have a certain trust from my customers, which employees do not – being trusted to have no agenda or personal ambition, empire building for example. People are more open and I love this way of collaborating, free of hierarchy and politics, although you have to be politically aware. It’s also liberating to wholly focus on bringing value to the business through delivery and not getting caught up in the everyday processes and bureaucracy of corporate life. On the flip side, I’m also an ‘outsider’ when it comes to social interactions and connections so if feeling part of the team is important to you, interim may not be for you. Don’t expect everyone to remember your birthday either!”
Have you faced any particular challenges as a female interim?
LC: “HR as a function has a significant female presence, so I can’t say that I’ve been challenged as a woman. What I would say though – and this certainly feels more prevalent for women – is that who you are and how you position yourself is extremely important. You need to be both authentic in and conscious of your personal brand. I’m informal by nature, no longer own a suit and you’ll find me in jeans and largely make up free on video calls. That doesn’t work everywhere but I am comfortable not being right for everyone, I need to be right for me. Your potential clients are unlikely to flex to fit you, so ensuring you are a good match before taking on the assignment is key. In the same vein, you have got to be prepared to adjust your style to meet the needs of the business who are ultimately your customer.”
Louise’s top five takeaways
- Self-marketing: create a strong CV and LinkedIn profile
- Financial acumen: make sure you have an income ‘buffer’
- Two-way trust: you’re not there to play politics
- Authenticity: be true to yourself but prepared to adapt
- Right match: although an ‘outsider’, the culture must suit you