International Women’s Day – Inspirational female leaders

To commemorate International Women’s Day on 8th March, BIG Alliance have highlighted an impressive female leader from its programme, Leaders in Partnership. Jennie Oswald from Macquarie sat down with us to tell us about herself, her inspiration and her work as a leader. We hope that her story and advice will inspire other women in the corporate and community sectors alike.

Please tell us who you are?
I’m Jennie Oswald, I’m the EMEA Regional Financial Controller for Macquarie Group based in the UK. In my role I oversee the finance functions for the company across the EMEA region. I’m a qualified chartered accountant and mother to my five-year-old son.

What single event has had the biggest impact on who you are?
I had just joined Macquarie’s London office as a finance manager when the global financial crisis occurred. Working in London, a major financial hub, during a tough recession led my partner and I to rethink our careers and eventually decide to take a career break. I left Macquarie and went travelling around Asia, intending to be back in London one year later. This decision however, unexpectedly resulted in me ending up in Sydney after only six months – re-joining Macquarie’s global head office where I spent four years, followed by three years in their Hong Kong office, and another three years with their team in Jacksonville in the United States. 11 years later, we finally got back to the UK, having had a life experience far more different than I could have ever imagined!

Who inspired you to be a leader and why?
Honestly, there hasn’t been one specific person who has inspired me but rather I have been really fortunate throughout my career to have had a couple of extremely supportive managers and leaders. Their biggest piece of advice was to ensure I was making the most of their support and sharing my own experiences and learnings with the generations after me. My close network of female peers then helped me realise the importance of supporting and developing female talent, which has been a focus area for me for the last few years and what has inspired me to volunteer in this space.

What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
Assumptions and lack of opportunities. With good intent, leaders can sometimes make assumptions about the capacity that females might have – be it their interest or ability to move locations, or the assumption that at home responsibilities may make it impossible to take on something new. This can result in women being overlooked when an exciting project or role comes up – inhibiting the opportunity for development and promotion.

What is the most important thing a person can do to improve themselves?
In this current competitive business environment, having strong emotional intelligence and capability can be the difference between a highly successful team and an underperforming team. The more you can develop empathy and understand your team’s needs, the more likely you are to retain your key talent.

What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?
I’d stress the value of developing and mentoring the talent beneath you, particularly diverse talent. And don’t struggle in silence. Put your hand up and ask for help when you need it. In my experience, the support has always been there when I needed it and it has enabled me to grow and succeed in my career.

Case study collated by Marija Mikne, Project Coordinator at Big Alliance.

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