The Keyholding Company

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

In the second installment of our series celebrating International Women’s day and its #BreakTheBias theme we speak to Claire Hawley, TKC’s Chief Growth Officer. 

Can you give me an overview of your career to date? How did you become Chief Growth Officer at TKC? 

I come from a consumer marketing background. I started at BT and then worked in several consumer tech companies in the US and UK. TKC saw me make the leap into the B2B world and into security.  

I started at TKC as a freelancer, supporting with marketing a couple of days a week while I pursued other goals. I was instantly impressed by the team and the opportunity at the company and soon signed up as Marketing Director. From there I took on the sales teams and now head up our Growth initiatives.  

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

I love the mix of collaborative problem solving and storytelling. Security has been stuck in its ways for some time, so I enjoy changing the conversation and presenting new ideas and ways of working that can really make a difference. The speed of change is frustrating sometimes. When companies truly value innovation things can happen quickly, but for others, it’s still lip service.   

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

We have all been in meetings where we’ve struggled to get the attention of a client who feels more comfortable addressing his male counterpart. At an event one potential buyer spoke to me briefly about our services before suggesting I introduce him to the other man on the stand, who was a junior BD associate on my team! 

However, things are changing. We recently brought in one of the biggest deals the company has ever won with an all-female team. It felt like a landmark moment. 

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?  

To support women in leadership companies should genuinely embrace a level of flexible working with hours and location. They should also ensure there are female role models in the business who can inspire the next level of talent to lean into the opportunity.

I took the job at TKC because of Abi, our Managing Director. Her position told me there were growth opportunities for women. I knew she could appreciate my perspective as a woman and the other pressures in my life. TKC has stood by me as I moved my family from London to Brighton, reducing my days in the office and through the arrival of my third child. They understand that sometimes a meeting might be impacted by events at home and there is an acceptance that flexible hours sometimes work better to help balance other commitments like childcare.    

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?

My family keep me on the straight and narrow and have forced me to create clear boundaries. Certain times of day are kept sacred so work can’t intrude.

Experience has taught me that taking a break from work and family is key in maintaining my sanity. For me, that means walking, swimming or playing netball. Being strong in body keeps me mentally and emotionally strong at work.  

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

If you don’t feel valued by your company, move on. Look for the right team for you. Look for signs of their attitude to women. Can you see women at the top? Is there equal representation? What is their maternity policy? Can you work from home? And don’t jump to conclusions. Even though the security industry is male dominated, this team has been more supportive than any other I have worked in.  

Stay tuned for the final installment of this series where we speak to Jo Roberston, TKC’s Chief Delivery Officer. 

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