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East Midlands Chamber News

Western Union head of partnerships Christina Wadlow reflects on her career to mark International Women's Day

Christina Wadlow, head of partnerships at Western Union, reflects on her experiences of equality within the sales and finance sector.

I am excited about the prospect of a time where “women in business” is no longer a calendar event and female leaders become so normalised that the gender of CEOs and board members isn’t an advertised statistic. I am delighted that 40% of the executive team at WUBS are women because I feel like these positions have been filled with the best people for the roles.

In my experience over the past 20 years, the UK finance sector has unquestionably made huge strides towards gender equality and as I look forward, I feel optimistic about the future for my female colleagues starting their careers in the corporate world. In trying to support them I am conscious of the challenges and advantages I have faced, particularly relevant to being in sales in a prominently male industry. I try to recognise these to help others manage similar situations and to thrive.

Twenty years ago, not being “another salesman” when cold calling was an advantage and when speaking to decision makers, I was able to differentiate from my competitors. At a very basic level, traditionally female traits such as a nurturing approach could lead to a better understanding of customer needs with a less aggressive sales style often being welcomed for long term relationships. I am not suggesting there aren’t aggressive woman or nurturing men in sales, I’m merely talking about my own experience.

On the flip side, for many years I was the only woman in a fast paced, energetic sales team. I enjoyed the culture of the team and was lucky to work with some really talented people. Overall, I was treated fairly however I had to work hard to fill the gap of not being “one of the lads”. I think attitudes to diversity and what is appropriate in the workplace have come a long way from the early noughties and comments which were commonplace then simply wouldn’t be tolerated now.

In evolutionary psychology, people often speak of the "four Fs", which are said to be the four basic and most primal drives that humans are evolutionarily adapted to have: fighting, fleeing, feeding, and fornicating. Feeding can be considered to include offering benefit such as friendship or business value. There is a theory that when you meet someone, they subconsciously put you into one of these categories.

Although this feels like a distant memory with current restrictions, I believe entertaining clients and prospects can be incredibly useful for building long term relationships. That said, corporate socialising with someone of the opposite sex needs careful managing to ensure no lines are inadvertently crossed as work lunches or evening drinks can lead to board room formalities being dropped. I feel it’s important that the company you work for will support you and never put you in a position you feel uncomfortable with. It is vital that as a leader your team know that their wellbeing comes above profit.

At Western Union, there is a commitment to foster a diverse and inclusive work environment and I’m pleased to say about 50% of our global workforce are women.

Last year the business was listed as one of 325 companies included in the 2020 Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index (GEI), which recognises transparency and high performance on issues related to gender equality.

Back in 2015 we launched "Women@WU" - a platform for women to come together to network, provide peer mentoring and a safe place to discuss topics that are important to them and their careers. As our stakeholders at all levels recognise that study after study shows women who support women are more successful in business.

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