The Keyholding Company

Celebrating International Women’s Day: Meet our female executives #BreakingTheBias

50% of our executive team are women. Although that ratio is representative of the gender split in the population at large, it is unusual among leadership teams, especially within the security sector. 

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2022 and its #BreakTheBias theme, we’re kicking off a three-part series focusing exclusively on our inspiring female executives. Discussing everything from what businesses can do to support women into leadership, to how the security industry has changed, they also advise other women with similar aspirations and give tips for avoiding burnout. 

In part one of this series, we hear from Abi Shuttleworth, The Keyholding Company’s Managing Director. 

Research shows that despite progress, the percentage of female executive directors has flatlined for a second year at 13.7% in 2021. What should businesses do to support more women into leadership?  

There is so much that businesses can do to support women into leadership. Particularly spotting talent early and providing opportunities to learn and shine through development plans, mentoring or assigning a special project.

I’ve been mentored by our hugely supportive CEO for ten years, who has believed at every stage that I could take on the next challenge. I’ve also benefitted from coaching with Nicole Soames at Diadem who is inspirational.

Can you give me an overview of your career to date? How did you become Managing Director at TKC? 

I nearly didn’t join TKC. I had a two-year-old and was planning another baby. I turned down the role because I felt my maternity leave would be too disruptive to the company. I then got a call from Charlie, our CEO, saying he understood if it was an issue for me, but it wasn’t for TKC – they would work around me. I jumped at the opportunity for a role that would support me being a working mother. 

I joined as an Account Director and worked my way up. I’ve had a leadership role in almost every department. TKC has never held me back – it has always provided me with new opportunities and challenges.

What do you love most about your job and what do you find challenging? 

I love our people – they are amazing. Everyone works extremely hard but it’s enjoyable because we work as a team. Sometimes what we try to achieve feels hugely ambitious and occasionally overwhelming, but we overcome challenges together and have achieved every goal we’ve set. That success drives me to keep working with my team to deliver our company vision. 

Can you share your experience of being a woman in a male-dominated industry? Have you seen any significant or positive changes?   

Within TKC it doesn’t matter what sex or gender you are. Outside TKC, I’ve had mixed experiences. I had one client, now retired, who repeatedly asked me to, “Roll over and have your tummy tickled.” It was like something from the 1950s!

I’m delighted to see the industry changing for the better – amazing women in senior roles, people being brave and calling out toxic behaviour. There is a lot more to do but TKC is a haven for me. 

According to a report by McKinsey, women are more burned out now than they were a year ago, with burnout escalating much faster among women than men. What do you do to relax and switch off?

I have two bright and beautiful daughters and a very supportive partner. It has never been an issue to turn off my screen to spend time with them. In security, you do sometimes have to work at odd times to deal with issues but that’s the exception, not the rule. Spending time with my family is very rewarding. 

What advice would you give other women looking for a similar career to yours? 

Always plan your next move two years in advance. If you can, start aspects of the role you want before you have it to prove you can do it – for a senior role, this could take a year. The reward will come. If it doesn’t, you’re undervalued, so move on! 

Keep an eye out for part two of our series where we hear from Claire Hawley, our Chief Growth Officer. 

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