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Combat unconscious bias in the workplace

We asked Sharon Naidoo, former CFO at YUM Brands & Kellogg's, to share her career story, what she's learnt about mentoring and her advice on how to combat gender bias in the workplace.

How did you get to where you are today?

I have always embraced all of me and I have leveraged my strengths. I am different, I am a single mom, I am female, I am of Indian origin – I am diversity. 

I focus on what I bring to the table – a sense of calmness, objectivity, a collaborator and the biggest business partner. I have a passion for value creation and growing new leaders. This all encompassing larger than life passion for growth and learning has been my biggest lever in my career. 

Have you personally experienced implicit or explicit gender bias? If so, did you feel able to challenge it?

Yes I have. My approach was and is to focus on me, what I bring to the table – be recognised for that rather than constantly react to the noise and the undue conflict. I have always been respected for my ability to lead an organisation. 

In your experience, what are the key hindrances affecting women’s career progression?

I really believe as a female, there are many roles that you will play – being a spouse, a mum, a friend, a daughter, a career woman. All these roles cannot bear equal importance as there is just never enough hours in the day, pick the roles and give it 100%, rather than be mediocre at every role. 

What held you back in your career, and how did you overcome it?

Nothing, because I have been very intentional on what brings me happiness. Being a CFO and being a mom are of equal importance to me and I balance the two every day.

What have you learnt about mentoring?

Really be present and actively listen, our role is not to advise but to ask the right questions. 

What is your business doing to achieve gender parity in the workplace?

Normalising compensation for roles, flexible working hours – all of which do not compromise the ability to do business.

What do you do personally when recruiting to encourage gender diversity?

I focus on hiring the right person for the role, irrespective of gender, race, sexual orientation or any other form of discrimination. 

What are your three top pieces of advice for women wanting to succeed in their career?

There is never the right time to become a mum, do not pick one role over another. Define the path and the roles that bring you happiness and go after it! 

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