Ever since I was asked if I would like to do a piece for the Female Leaders Club, I have been reflecting on my lessons learned from my time as former Chief People Officer for Lloyd’s of London, HR Director at Lloyds Bank and Ford Motor Company, and Faculty Lead of the Company of HR Professionals 2024 National Leadership Programme with my top tips to share.

I have also been listening to the latest podcast from Kirsty Young “Young again”, in which well-known men and women from a variety of backgrounds share what they would tell / advise their younger self. It has made me reflect on what I would go back and say to the young girl that had no idea of what she wanted to do after school and university, with no concept or exposure to what working in a male dominated corporate environment would be like, and how to navigate it.

Throughout my career I have worked for and with large corporates on a global basis, I have seen senior female leaders who I have admired and learned from, I have equally learned much from those that I didn’t aspire to ever be like, regardless of what they had achieved.  I have also learned from some excellent and very disappointing male leaders.  

Talking to my younger self...

If I was talking to my younger self, I would tell her that it will be ok, to be true to herself, that her confidence will grow and that she will find her place in the world both personally and professionally.  To trust her judgement, to be sure that she doesn’t forget about having fun as well as working hard, and that she needs to keep work in perspective as you only live once.

I have learned from others the value of being your authentic self, to share a little bit of you and that others will then connect more with you, that caring for others and about your impact on them is really important, and that staying true to your values is critical as they are an integral part of who you are as a person and as a leader.

Lessons learnt

·       Mansplaining happens everywhere, so take it in your stride and manage it with serenity – I always think about the swan gliding down the river ….   I laugh to myself and always intervene politely, but the point has been made.   


·       Continue to grow as an individual and as a leader; learn from your team and others, watching and listening as we can all continue to develop and grow throughout our careers.  I see too many people that have stopped doing that and then become entrenched in their views and opinions, intransigent and ultimately reduce their own relevance. Continue to differentiate yourself with your knowledge and experience.


·       Keep humble, be kind, keep providing that different perspective and insight; this is integral to the value and diversity in thought that we bring.  It is all too easy, especially if in the minority, to norm and to lose our voice – we have probably all seen that happen.


·       It is not always easy to speak up, to express a different view, to challenge convention and to think differently; actually, that is how people, organisations and markets evolve and is very much part of our role as a leader.


·       I have never enjoyed the after-work drinks or evening events; I have always preferred to either politely decline or leave at a time that works for me so that I can get home to spend time with my family and friends.  Finding the balance that works for you is critical, it is for you to decide and to put in place; the judgement of others (and even of yourself) can be hard to manage - at time I have felt caught and had to be firm.


Personally, I have always worked full time, as I was the main bread winner and knew that even if I wasn’t that I would probably still be doing the hours, so I might as well be paid for them. I did however always have a degree of flexibility that helped me have the balance I needed.  Equally I was aware that had I asked, it would change how I was perceived by other leaders around me, probably result in others querying my commitment and also my ability to contribute – how rude and not the case at all.  It was never a battle I took on, and that was a personal choice – equally I am not convinced that I would have won.

I am passionate about this being an area that females at all levels still get judged on, so they don’t ask to change their working arrangements or even ask for part time / compressed working weeks. This must change. Our value and commitment are not reduced with an ask for flexibility, it is key to retaining female talent, key skills and experience.  We also bring a huge number of additional skills and experience (not to mention resilience) as many of us juggle the other parts of our lives with work (be it caring responsibilities / social arrangements etc.). And yes, we still get to do the majority of this.  It can get too much, and impact our wellbeing; so, we do need awareness, understanding and support so we don’t ultimately step away from our careers.

Ultimately, I have looked for role models, continue to do so and aspired to be one for others.


About the author 


Annette Andrews is the founder of Acaria Consulting and a thought leader on Conscious Leadership. 

As a former Chief People Officer for Lloyd’s of London, HR Director at Lloyds Bank and Ford Motor Company, and Faculty Lead of the Company of HR Professionals 2024 National Leadership Programme, Annette now spends her time speaking and writing about leadership, with a focus on enhancing employee attraction, retention, and engagement – and coaching and consulting with executives and their teams.