Posted on 24/09/2016 by Marie Swarbreck
Jo Hayes, Director of Pipeline Initiatives, The Women's Foundation
Question 1 - Can you introduce yourself in a couple of sentences?
I’m the Director of Pipeline Initiatives which, to answer a couple of the FAQs I get; no, it has nothing to do with plumbing and yes, it is a full time job! The day my position no longer exists, is the day we have an equal playing field for women and men in leadership positions. I moved to Hong Kong from Paris in 2013, am a proud mum of two teenagers and love both working in the hustle and bustle of the city whilst living in the peaceful Lamma hills.
Question 2 - How long have you been involved in the gender equity space?
For over twenty years I was working in the field of education at the British Council and BBC Worldwide, specializing in digital media production for young learners of English, as well as dabbling in the education entrepreneur space at various stages of my career. I first became actively involved in D&I issues as a founding member of the British Council, Paris EO&D Committee but at that time my focus was more on addressing inequalities related to sexual identity, work/life balance and disabilities. Earlier in my career I was seemingly less aware of gender related biases or possibly less empowered to tackle the issues. My views and experiences have definitely evolved since then and whilst I remain firmly committed to supporting and championing change across all areas of inclusion, my focus now at The Women’s Foundation is challenging gender biases and empowering and advancing women leaders in Hong Kong.
Question 3 - What are you doing to inspire women in leadership?
One of our signature pipeline programmes at The Women’s Foundation is our cross-industry Mentoring Programme and each year we pair up over 100 emerging and established women leaders in Hong Kong. The ultimate goal of the mentoring programme is to increase the number of women in policy and decision-making roles. We aim to build a cohort of powerful role models who are committed to sponsoring, mentoring and inspiring other women. We also hold regular inspirational talks showcasing leading women across all industries, including both our Leading Women and Secrets to Success speaker series. My personal pledge to inspire and support the pipeline of women leaders manifests itself through the three mentoring programmes I’m on, including the Cherie Blair mentoring programme for Women in Business. I strongly believe in giving back and willingly volunteer my time and hopefully some expertise, to mentor aspiring women leaders.
Question 4 - What is coming up in the next few months in the pipeline?
A lot! At The Women’s Foundation we understand that it takes research and collaboration to best effect change and some of the highlights of our new partnerships and programmes include the recent launch of the Hong Kong chapter of Facebook’s #SheMeansBusiness. This is a blended learning programme designed to tackle some of the areas our research has identified as being key barriers to women scaling up their companies and represents an exciting new phase in our collaborative efforts to empower women leaders in small businesses.
We also enjoy the support of our HR Advisory Council, a think tank composed of some of Hong Kong’s top HR specialists, in the development of our best practice guides. These are designed to be highly practical and draw on our bird's-eye-view of what leading firms are doing to attract, retain and promote more women. We launched our Return-to-Work Best Practice Guide in May and we’re currently developing our next guide on the success markers for Mobility Programmes as well as working with Dentons and the Hong Kong Council for Social Services on a Best Practice Guide for organisations looking to provide support for working women (and men) who are shouldering elderly care responsibilities.
We’re looking forward to the launch of the 2016-17 Mentoring Programme for women leaders in September, as well as our flagship 30% Club Boardroom lunch in October. At this lunch, we bring accomplished and aspiring women directors face to face with board and C-suite members from leading local and international companies for simulated boardroom discussions. The aim of the lunch is to break down some of the closed circle networks which are often used to fill board appointments and provide an opportunity for women to showcase their expertise and credentials for board positions in front of senior company representatives.