Women in Finance: Interview with Clare Jupp, Director of People Development, Brightstar
Oct 15, 2019 ~10 minute read

 article intro image

Clare’s background is actually in education: she is a qualified secondary Headteacher (NPQH) and worked in the state education sector for 16 years, eventually running her own Training School. She has a Degree in English and Media Studies and also holds a Masters Degree in Management. She has a vast amount of experience in training and development, coaching, mentoring and public speaking. Clare has been working in this sector for the last 10 years and during this time has built a ‘people development’ culture within Brightstar, leading the business to achieve 1st place in the “Sunday Times Best Small Company to Work For in 2019”.

Brightstar also secured the Best Companies 2019 highly coveted 3 star award (the highest possible) ‘for extraordinary levels of workplace engagement’. Clare led Brightstar through the ‘Investors in People’ application process, achieving Gold status in 2015 and then the title of ‘Global Investor in People Gold business of the Year’ 2016-7. She has been instrumental in promoting and progressing the ‘Women in Finance’ campaign across the sector and has earned Brightstar the reputation of being a thought leader in this field as well as a being a trailblazing ‘people developer’ within the sector.

What brought you into financial services?

I actually worked in the education sector for 16 years. I ran a Training School, leading on all aspects of professional development and teacher training and I am a fully qualified Secondary Headteacher. Having taken a career break to have children, I started to introduce coaching and a people development culture to Brightstar; then very much in its infancy and just a handful of team members.

What do you think makes a successful leader? And in particular women leaders?

All leaders, regardless of gender, are visionaries who show passion and are prepared to take risks. They align people to their vision and values and are strong communicators.

In addition to this, I believe that women leaders value work-life balance and are also more naturally empathetic and value relationships. Women take more time to listen, meaning they don’t react straight away. They appreciate people and their viewpoints and ‘hear people out’ before making decisions. Women are also naturally more nurturing and place a strong emphasis on teamwork too. It might be a cliche, but I also think they are good at multitasking; showing the ability to decisively and quickly respond to simultaneous and different tasks or problems at a time. I also think women make decisions without their ego getting in the way. Finally, women have high emotional intelligence, enabling them to create a great place to work and to get the best out of employees.

What are the biggest barriers you have faced in your career in financial services?

This is an easy one! Gaining respect for being me, Clare Jupp, rather than wife of... I have worked hard to be respected as my own person with my own skills, ambitions and achievements.

If you could tell your younger self one thing you know about business now, what would it be?

I would say that I have learnt that you should never feel intimidated by anyone, whoever they are and whatever they do. I feel I could hold my own in any room or at any table now, but I’m not sure that I felt like this in the earlier days.

What's your own personal mantra?

Really simple - effort = achievement. I believe that if you focus, commit and give your best to what you do, you will reap the benefits.

What do you think is key for finding a successful work-life balance?

You have to fully focus on whatever you are doing at that time, not allowing the lines of work and home to blur. Be strict with yourself when it comes to your mobile phone and ensure that family or ‘down time’ is sacrosanct and similarly, that the same rules apply for work time.

Recognise that doing the things that you enjoy doing out of work help to make you more effective at your job role and are a significant component in being successful at work. If you’re happy, refreshed and mentally well, you are then ‘firing on all cylinders’ in the workplace.

Similarly, if you focus at work and achieve great results, you will be a far nicer person to be around at home and within your friendship group.

What’s one key leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way?

Never sit on bad news - avoid the ‘slow no’ and just be honest and straight with people. Prevaricate at your peril!

What advice do you have for women aiming for leadership positions?

Recognise the fact that as women, we will often ‘under assess’ our capabilities and might also hold back if we feel we don’t fully meet the job spec. We need to be bold and less doubting, taking a risk without fearing failure.

When applying for leadership positions, we have to remember the skills that we bring to the table and the fact that, as research shows time and time again, having women in the boardroom makes business sense and that women do indeed make a difference to the bottom line. Think ‘they need me because I can make a difference’.

If you are building a career, look for role models, find your mentors and seek support from like-minded individuals, be it men or women. Finally, don’t ever see gender as a barrier to success.

Do you think there is still a glass ceiling?

I believe that women have made huge strides forwards in the workplace over the last 10 years but I think that the glass ceiling has not quite been broken, even if it has been ‘cracked’. I believe that, unfortunately, there are still hard-to-see informal barriers in many organisations that keep women from getting promotions, pay rises, and further opportunities. In spite of heightened awareness, policies and formal efforts to tackle gender inequality, there are still those within organisations whose attitudes and actions can prevent and even actively block women (and other minority groups) from progressing. We are getting there, but it’s a far slower burn than I would like.

What are your thoughts on the Women in Finance Charter?

I am a huge advocate and campaigner for the Women in Finance Charter, having signed up ourselves in 2016. Introduced by HM Treasury as a response to Jayne Anne Gadhia’s report, the Women in Finance Charter has now attracted 350 signatories since its inception in 2016 and covers over 800,000 employees across the financial services sector.

I am a great supporter of the charter because by signing up, you are committing to a journey to take your business towards greater equality. Not only is this the right thing to do on a social level, it also makes total business sense. Furthermore, businesses that address their culture and understand the power of diversity are those that thrive and succeed. Research shows that the top quarter of businesses on gender diversity are 21% more likely to have above-average profits than the bottom quarter.

Women’s events, women’s lunches and so forth are all very well, have their purpose and also very enjoyable, but I believe that gender balance needs to be driven by institutional change. Therefore, if organisations are serious about creating a more even playing field, I feel that they should commit to the principles of the charter.

In summary, I would like all organisations that haven’t signed, to think about why this is the case and to get in touch if they require any help, advice and support in becoming a signatory.

How do we encourage more women into financial services?

I think that there are various things that organisations can do in the here and now. For example, looking at and changing job advertisements, particularly the language used, can be a way of attracting more women applicants and hopefully a way of getting more women onto shortlists. I am not a believer in positive discrimination, but I do believe that you have to ‘flood the gene pool’ to increase your chances of appointing good women.

Offering opportunities of flexible working can also increase the possibility of attracting women, particularly returners, to the workplace. I am a believer of providing flexible working opportunities for all parents and carers, but being as we exist in an age where the majority of childcare is still undertaken by the mother,, I think the offer of flexible working will primarily attract more women candidates. Women can multi task and wear many hats, but you may be losing many good potential candidates if you insist that this is done within a strict working regime.

The gender pay gap is only second worst to the construction industry. What can organisations do to address this?

This cannot be fixed overnight. However, if you make the commitment to address it, that’s the first and very huge step to fixing it. The desire to close the gap will automatically drive action and make you look differently at things. For example, if women hold similar, lower paid positions, ask why this is? Are these the only roles that can be fulfilled part time? Are they roles that attract more women applicants? Are you looking at job advertisements to try and attract more male candidates to these roles? If most of your managers and directors are men, then ask why this is? Do you have a lack of capacity coming through? Do you need to build more capacity? Are there barriers that prevent women from progressing to senior roles? Are you ensuring that no job role is ever regarded as gender specific?

Quicker ‘fixes’ for redressing the balance could be to invite women Non-Executive Directors to your Board: many organisations are starting to do this so as to achieve greater diversity in the boardroom and fairer representation at senior level. You can also introduce mentoring and training programmes for women and hold workshop events. These will build confidence, knowledge and skills and will enable women to apply for job roles. Improving the image of the industry can also help to bust stereotypes and attract more women to the profession. The ‘pale, stale and male’ image is gradually being redressed and industry media appears to be working hard to be more representative and to encourage speakers, panelists, judges, commentators and authors from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Finally, we need to attack this at grass roots level. Schools are where the problem begins in my opinion. We need to ensure that financial services is a sector that attracts young people, especially girls. Organisations need to link up with local schools and provide opportunities for taster days and work placements. From my own experience of working in schools for many years and from my work here at Brightstar via our Young Learners Programme, it is evident that financial services is not a career path that is ‘pitched’ to young people nor attractive to them. We have a responsibility to redress this and to attract more youngsters to this sector, particularly girls.


Latest News