Rummage of Flowers
Guia Besana interprets womanhood through fine art photography
To celebrate International Women's Day, we had a good mix of internal activities happening in the Canon office celebrating the importance of women in the workplace. I would love to foster open conversations and talk about how we can move forward as an organization together and for us all to feel a sense of change and momentum for all women to be successful and have the opportunity to grow.
In preparation for International Women's Day, we also had a gender diversity panel, which I was very excited to participate in. It's a subject that is close to my heart, not just promoting women in the workplace but also diversity and inclusion in general - something that gives us a better mix of people, characters and ideas to help move the business forward. An open discussion panel is a nice way to engage in a relaxed, informal environment and have a conversation to allow different people to share their perspectives and experiences.
One of the common questions I hear is around what we are doing to promote more women into leadership and management positions. People want to know how we plan to address gender diversity in leadership and understand how important it is for the business. Broadening the diversity discussion, there is also a wider diversity conversation. This is not limited to Canon, but a broader society and industry issue around breaking through stereotypes and encouraging people to see opportunities wherever they want to see opportunities. It's an area where we know we can make progress and we're keen to do so.
Looking at what we are currently doing at Canon EMEA to promote women in the workplace, starting with our headquarters, we have set up a focus group of women to help drive the conversation of what we should be working on to make a difference and help women see the opportunities Canon has to offer. What gets in the way and what can we do about it? We're also doing training activities around cultural awareness, understanding difference and promoting difference. We've adapted mentoring and coaching schemes to allow women, if it's important to them, to select female mentors. Also, we are starting to roll out unconscious bias training for all of our managers to help them understand that we all have bias and it can come across in different ways, looking at how we can manage that bias, particularly in recruitment situations and how to avoid unconsciously making key decisions or judgment about a person which are driven by bias rather than objective facts.
We have regular calls with our EMEA markets to talk about our different initiatives and to share good practices. So many countries did different activities around International Women's Day: educational, career workshops and helping people to identify obstacles that might have held them back from going for different opportunities.
Driving change takes time. At the end of the day, of course, it has to be the right person for the job with the best skills, experience and capability. What is important for me, is that we have a diversity in our leadership and management, and we have a way to go to build that, particularly in certain areas of our business. Let's focus on our biggest opportunities and how we break through the pipeline in leadership and management, and also how we get more women into sales. We're doing many initiatives through trainees and women in trainee sales roles in local markets.
Are we doing enough? There are always things we can do better or more of, but I think we are trying to focus on what the data is telling us - where we should be able to make a difference and what the things are that will tip the balance and help us make a big shift forward. I think we're working on the right areas. It does come up in leadership meetings in different ways, whether it's through discussions around talent or how we make sure we have the best people in the organization.
Within the next three years, I'd like to see an even stronger representation of diverse candidates at Canon. It doesn't happen overnight, because those opportunities don't come up all the time. So more diversity - not just around gender, but people from different backgrounds which will add to the richness and what we want to be as an organization. This will help us gain a fresh perspective towards our 10-year vision, thinking differently and support is in our drive to be more innovative.
I was a business and finance graduate originally. When I left university, I joined the Marks & Spencers graduate training program and went into the commercial side of their business. I worked five years for them in a range of different roles. They were going through a business change and I was involved in their first store closure program, which was really daunting at 24. I had to face the press and deal with all these people in the streets saying: "you're taking away my shop, I depend on this?". And even though we were opening a much bigger and better store three miles down the road, that left a big impact and was a challenging but a good learning experience. Seeing people go through that journey of change made me interested in what motivates and drives people to change. So I went off travelling for 18 months, and when I came back I decided to do a masters in human resource management.
When I finished, I looked at two different opportunities: a pharmaceutical company and Canon, who was recruiting for somebody to come into their management and leadership training team. I liked the feel of the organization and the people, the role in itself was exciting and interesting, so that's what brought me to Canon 24 years ago. As soon as I was here, one opportunity kept leading to the next, and I was open to trying new challenges.
I was thinking about this the other day when we were planning Women's Network panel, about the different experiences that have influenced me. My dad was a policeman and we lived in a police house, which was right next to a very rough estate. Of course, the children of policemen are usually a good target for people that want to vent their frustrations - so I had to learn to look after myself at quite a young age. When I was 12 or 13 and we were given our options in school to choose some of our extra subjects, I was told that the girls could do cookery and needlework and the boys could do woodwork or metalwork. I really hated needlework and wanted to do woodwork, but was told 'no'. I decided I wasn't accepting that and went to speak to the head, who told me that I would be the only girl doing the class and it would probably be uncomfortable for me. But after the chat and overcoming my first challenge of gender limiting my options, I took the woodwork class. There have been plenty of other challenges, sexists comments etc, but you learn over time how to deal with these. The workplace and society have evolved a lot over the last 30-40 years in this respect and thankfully this is much less likely to happen and if it does there are much clearer mechanisms to handle this.
Our industry is quite male-oriented, but you find ways to effectively work within this. I listen, ask questions, reflect and challenge it. That's the way we make change happen - by getting people to understand the impact their behaviour and actions have on others.
I never felt that I missed out on any opportunities because I am a woman, but I think it might have taken me a bit longer to get there. My mother was always a role model for me. She worked full time, which was quite unusual back then, as a math teacher. Looking back now, she was extremely practical. She had a dad who was a mechanic and always looked after a car from a young age, changing tires and stripping down engines. She passed on a lot of this to me and taught me about independence and how to take the next step. And then I look at people like Angela Merkel who was in a very male-dominated environment. What I like about her is that she is very comfortable in her own skin, and confident yet quite humble in the way she describes things. I admire that she's honest and authentic as a leader.
I'm passionate about Canon's Young People Program, which includes a lot of young women. From an educational perspective, we have previously linked into STEM and women in STEM subjects, looking at different companies, different types of roles and how to get more women into science and technology. I think an apprenticeship is a great route. The challenge is always as people get further into things and gain experience in a certain area, they sometimes close off opportunities. It's about using every opportunity we have to show people the possibilities, rather than what's not possible. As a brand, every opportunity we have to talk externally to people about Canon or attend events, the more we can connect and help show people the culture and environment they would encounter when working for us.
I would definitely encourage women to come work for us - we have lots of opportunities. Canon is a company where we give people space and encourage ideas and creativity - I think people can help make a real difference.
To encourage young women with their careers and aspirations, I think continuous self-development is very important. Having a good education, really knowing your subject and being passionate. Connect with others who are interested in those areas and think about what you can do, not what you can't do. Don't limit yourself. I encourage women to be confident and simply try things. If you're not feeling confident, find someone who might be able to help you get that confidence to try and take the next step into something you'd like to do. Your passion and talent will make a difference.
Let's celebrate what women can offer to businesses and to the world.