Kate Philpot, head of global sales enablement at Getty Images.
Jane Imrie

IWD 2021: Getty Images’ Kate Philpot on amplifying unheard voices and holding decision makers to account

For International Women’s Day 2021, Bdaily reached out to a range of female business leaders from across our key regions to share how their experience of the pandemic has shaped their passion for gender equality.

Kate Philpot is head of global sales enablement at Getty Images, managing a global team from between London and Sydney as well as delivering training globally.

Bdaily spoke with Kate about how she has benefited from home working during the pandemic, supporting friends and colleagues from afar and holding decision makers to account.

As a woman, how have you personally adapted during the pandemic and what challenges have you faced?

“I can’t say that my experiences of the pandemic have been shaped by my gender. I’m very aware of my good fortune to be in a global role that can as easily be done from home as in the office.

“In fact, I’ve benefited enormously from not having a three-hour round-trip commute to do each day. I think my employer has benefitted because most of the hours I’d have spent travelling are now spent working.

“I’m also conscious that my experience as a stepmother to a 19-year-old at university is very far from that of my colleagues with school age children; their attempts to juggle home-schooling while trying to hold down a job have been just jaw-droppingly impressive.

“The only challenge I’ve had bar managing the boredom, has been, as it has been for almost all of us, not being able to see family. My elderly parents have been shielding since last March so we’ve not been able to see them, bar on Zoom, which isn’t the same thing as we all know.”

How have you and your business supported women during the past year?

“I have a friend who’s both an NHS consultant and a single parent to two small boys. It has been heart-breaking to hear her talk about trying to keep people alive in the hospital while trying not to get Covid herself and to keep her boys happy and healthy.

“All I’ve been able to do, as we all have, is be at the end of a phone, to check in regularly and offer counsel and advice whenever needed.

“As far as our business is concerned, I think we’ve done a great job. Our CEO took Covid seriously from the very start, sent us all home with the guidance to get all the equipment we needed sent to our homes so we could work effectively.

“There’s also been a real focus on keeping us all connected: we used Slack to set up a virtual coffee scheme, giving us the chance to catch-up with colleagues across the globe. We also used it to set up support groups, for example for working parents, to provide them with space to seek advice and support.

“Luckily, we already had Flexible Working Principles in place and, as managers, we’ve all needed to show understanding and compassion particularly to those struggling with the isolation or with the home-schooling of small ones.

“That means accepting that things might not be done as quickly as usual or that someone might need to be less available during the day but be at their desk when their kids are in bed. As in any difficult situation, it’s a case of ‘do as you would be done by’.”

What opportunities do you feel that the pandemic has created for women, if any?

“For me the biggest opportunity for all employees, irrespective of gender, is in continuing to work more flexibly. Working from home, working flexibly, remote working are all used interchangeably but they’re not the same thing.

“Our own business’ leadership had been very set on office working till the pandemic hit and I think most of that leadership team would now say they’ve been pleasantly surprised that we’ve sustained our business and, to a large extent our culture, while remote.

“So, for anyone concerned that they’re going to be forced back into commuting I would say, a proposal beats an argument; have a clear view in your own mind of the basis on which you’re prepared to return (e.g. X days per week in the office) and make sure you have that conversation with your line manager sooner rather than later.

“Again, that’s not to say there aren’t challenges; flexibility isn’t an option for many people I know because their roles don’t permit and those who’ve joined their business in the last 12 months have had a very different joining experience.

“I would absolutely say that it’s almost impossible to create an experience of an organisation’s culture via an entirely remote onboarding hence, likely going forward, organisations will be working in some kind of hybrid model.”

In your opinion, has the pandemic highlighted any gender imbalances in business?

“There’s nothing like a multi-headed Zoom screen to highlight whether or not there’s equal representation in the business.

“And that’s only exacerbated when people start talking and you notice how some men tend to hog the airtime. What’s even more interesting, if you ask most men, is that they won’t even have noticed.

“I’ve started flagging it and when I notice someone being spoken over, I make a point of asking their opinion. I think it’s a little thing we can all do to shift the balance of inclusion just a little more in our favour.”

As we step into a post-pandemic business landscape, how do you think women’s roles in business may change?

“Last year saw the conflation of Covid with its disproportionate impact on women with a (re)newed focus on racial inequality and inequality in general.

“I think more people have found their voices and have been willing to speak up in their organisation about what they feel are inequities.

“Speaking for our own business, we have found our decision makers very willing to listen and the focus now is to sustain the momentum and to keep the conversation front of mind.

“We continue to need to engage our male allies and to hold all decision makers to account to make material and meaningful short-, medium- and long-term changes that will deliver more equitable, representative organisations. There is no time to lose.”

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