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Diversity & Inclusion with Lizzie Hooper

How do you identify yourself?

I used to introduce myself as a Senior Manager within Financial Services Consulting, Operations Transformation. However, to really know me is to know that I am an English, chatty, constantly-juggling mum to a lovely little boy, Lewis. I am a former-teacher, and I continue to be passionate about seeing others grow and develop. I really enjoy working with people, and leading teams to deliver business projects within my Consulting role. My core values include loyalty, honestly, friendship and family. For those who have completed business chemistry my type is Guardian, so those who know me would say I like to (over-) organise, structure and drive things through to completion, hopefully bringing everyone with me on the journey!

What does inclusion mean to you?

For me, inclusion means fostering a culture where everyone feels like they can be their authentic self. How this manifests itself ranges from how people introduce themselves, how you physically ‘turn-up’ to work, but also how you are comfortable and encouraged to contribute to your business objectives through diversity of thought and approach. In my experience, within an inclusive environment everyone feels energised. Inclusive teams, where everyone feels personally invested, appreciated, and able to contribute, is what I aspire to cultivate.

What challenges did you experience, if any, in your career and how did you overcome them? 

I started my consulting career in Financial Services, a traditionally male-dominant industry. A few years into my career, a good friend asked me over a pint whether I had ever experienced a setback at work because of being a woman (great question!). I gave a number of examples of situations where I had felt uncomfortable (being the only woman in the room, the assumption I was in meetings to take notes, very few female role models, handshakes only offered to the men etc.). The response I got shocked me: “so you haven’t really had many issues then, that’s good”. I vividly remember the feeling of being taken aback and not understanding how I could have been misunderstood, and yet just nodding (hello to the 40% of women who regularly hold back opinions to avoid being seen as ‘bossy’).

Clearly for me, the small actions added up to something that I saw as a challenge. My learning from this conversation was that the smallest action, one which you might not even acknowledge, can make a massive difference to someone else. If you can positively influence one person in a tiny way today, you might be surprised what knock-on impact that has tomorrow. From then on, I tried to prioritise the small things in my leadership style: ask how someone is, show manners, don’t make assumptions, and be conscious of bias.

"Inclusion means fostering a culture where everyone feels like they can be their authentic self."

What could others learn from your journey? 

If you need something, the likelihood is that someone else needs it too. Don’t be afraid to take action and champion a cause which you believe in.

How is Deloitte helping you build your career?

One of the biggest moments in my career was returning to work following a year of maternity leave. I can honestly say that the year of maternity leave was the year I learnt the most in my whole career; a crash course in prioritisation, empathy, time management, working under pressure! However, despite this the imposter syndrome upon return to work lay heavy. There were two clear ways that Deloitte helped me through this time, to build my career.

Firstly, I was sponsored through our promotions process into senior management whilst on maternity leave. The firm helped me work through the process around my personal and work commitments, culminating in a successful interview. Clearly, the promotion itself was of great value to me, but even more importantly the process helped me realise that I still had sponsorship and belief in my abilities from leaders within the firm. I was overwhelmed with how many of my colleagues and leaders reached out to support and coach me through the process (thank you!).

As a second example, upon return to work I reached out to the inclusion team to ask what structures and initiatives were in place to support working parents. I was keen to do what I can to help others going through the same challenges that I was facing. I was thrilled that the inclusion team were invested in the same objective, and together we established a Parent & Caregiver network, which I currently have the privilege of leading through its first year. This network aims to ensure all parents and caregivers feel connected, supported, and to ensure an inclusive culture for all. It is so rewarding to be part of a team working to drive inclusion in our business. 

Do you have any mentors and if so, what is their value to you?

I have actively sought out a number of life coaches and mentors throughout my career, for example, through Teach First’s Leadership Development Programme, the 30% club Mentorship Scheme with IMI, as well as acting as a mentor myself, partnering with Junior Achievement. The value of a mentor is often to help you find the confidence, belief and clarity of thought to achieve what you are capable to achieve. They help you realise potential, and depending on their exact role, can also advocate on your behalf. For me, I have found having a number of different mentors invaluable as they are able to offer different perspectives. The diversity of thought and opinion helped me shape my career direction by considering different options and approaches.

What is the most valuable thing you have learned since you joined Deloitte?

Never be afraid to admit you are facing a challenge, whether that be with a work task or a personal circumstance. Find your people – your team, colleagues, friends, coach – and then lean on your network when you face challenge, and they will pull you through. You will then be able to repay the favour. We are all human (including our clients)!

What’s one piece of advice you would give to a new parent/ caregiver trying to juggle their new life and career?

It is a collective benefit for everyone if you look after your own health and wellbeing. If it is difficult to motivate yourself to practice self-care, dedicate the effort to your loved one as it will benefit them too! Otherwise, you can end up parenting/caregiving from a place of stress and unhappiness, risking burnout. Your cup is not half-empty or half-full, it is refillable!

What do you see is the role of an ally/ what do you value most?

Being an inclusion ally really means being open to a different perspective. For me, allies in our leadership group would seek for diverse opinions on their initiatives, and welcome challenge or feedback from those of differing experience or backgrounds. What I value most from the Parent & Caregiver network is those who champion our cause by talking about our events, initiatives, or viewpoints, bringing awareness into areas of the business/ colleagues who may benefit.

Please describe inclusion in 5 words.

Inclusion = harnessing the best in everyone

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