We’re delighted to bring you this interview with Lisa Unwin. Lisa was a partner in Consulting at Arthur Andersen before moving to Deloitte where she was Director of Brand & Communication. She went on to co-found She’s Back, alongside Deb Khan, a company designed to support women in the work place. Their main aims are to help organisations access the potential of women and support women who want to return to work.
Here we catch up with Lisa to find out more about her career journey so far… enjoy!
1. As a change maker within your industry, tell us a little about your background?
As a new graduate, I joined Arthur Andersen and trained as a management consultant. My ambition was to make partner, which I did at the age of 35. What I didn’t realise at the time, was that lives are long and complex. The Enron scandal brought the firm down and my partnership was short-lived.
I moved to Deloitte as Director of Brand and Communication, a role I enjoyed very much and one that I left when the juggling of young children and a career just became too much. They were four and six at the time.
One day I found myself listening to the BBC woman’s hour “Power List” and began to wonder what had happened to my career. My four year old was turning ten, his sister twelve, I realised I needed to do something to get my career back on track and more importantly I realised I wasn’t alone in that. That was my motivation for setting up first She’s Back and more recently the Reignite Academy.
2. What are the challenges you’ve had to overcome to get you where you are today and how did you address them?
The biggest challenge was in my head. The demons telling myself it was “too late”, that I was “past it” and that things had moved on too much and I was no longer relevant.
How did I address them? By connecting with women and men who were in a similar situation or working in a similar field, who could all see the untapped potential in women like me who just happened to have stepped off a career track for a while.
3. What unique qualities do you bring (as a woman) that makes a difference in what you do?
I care. Deeply. About the injustice of the situation
And I don’t care. If I fail, or make a fool of myself.
4. What advice would you give women who want to create more impact and influence in the workplace?
Be brave, find your voice and use it.
5. What successes have you witnessed that we should all be celebrating?
Women’s presence in our popular culture. When I grew up (in the seventies) the women on our screens were typified by those girls in bikinis running around being chased by Benny Hill. Or Anthea Redfern coming onto the Generation Game in a long frock “giving us a twirl” (this will mean nothing to anyone under 50!)
Victoria Wood was a turning point for me. A clever, fully clothed, talented woman on stage making us laugh.
What do we have now? Big Little Lies, Fleabag, Happy Valley, the Handmaid’s Tale, Emily Maitlis, Mishal Husain, Laura Kuenssberg … I don’t think you can underestimate the difference all that makes.
6. When it feels like the world is going crazy, what keeps your vision and passion alive?
My mates. I’ve been in a book club for the last 14 years. We are all totally different. We’ve endured childbirth, divorce, death, cancer , redundancy, joy, pain, loss, gain, you name it … but those women and other women and men in my life who I count as friends, all keep me sane and focused. Them and my kids.
7. Who inspires you and why?
The women I meet day to day, through She’s Back or the Reignite Academy, who are trying to juggle family, life, careers. They are fabulous and totally inspirational. Their stories keep me going.
8. What is the one piece of advice you would give to a younger woman?
Play the long game. (Never assume it will never happen to you, never make a short term decision without thinking through the long term)
If you find yourself with children and you’re thinking about how to manage career and parenting – remember. There are two careers and two parents.
Lisa has also written an excellent book called “She’s Back: Your Guide to Returning to Work” which is available here.