The Keyholding Company

Celebrating International Women’s Day: Our final female executive #BreakingTheBias

In the final installment of our series celebrating International Women’s day and its #BreakTheBias theme, we speak to Jo Robertson, TKC’s Chief Delivery Officer.

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

My degree was in Licensed Retail Management so I started my career as a pub manager. After a few years of relentless hours, I left my job. I stumbled on Npower who were recruiting a Team Manager role. The 9-5 job was perfect as I started doing a law degree at the Open University. Then life happened, and the plan to be a Barrister faded away.  

I stayed with Npower for 13 years, working my way up. An opportunity arose to join an energy start-up as their Head of Customer Service where over 8 years I progressed to Director Level and C-Suite roles. Then the energy crisis came. My last company went out of business and a few weeks later Charlie messaged me on LinkedIn. The rest is history.   

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

From the client to our front line operators, I love working with people! Being able to help those around you achieve what is important to them is a blessing and something I take very seriously.

Challenging….can I say people again? Every person is different and working to keep our clients happy and our team motivated can be challenging, especially when much of your workforce is remote.   

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

I’ve always worked in male dominated industries. Over 20 years ago, women felt they couldn’t live up to their potential, that there was an invisible limit on how good we could be before it would attract negative attention and we’d put limits on ourselves.

Over time I have seen women feeling confident enough to live up to their capabilities. The journey is nowhere near over and the challenge now lies in tackling the subconscious bias which can be quite resistant.   

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?  

We need to throw out the outdated stereotype of a Senior Executive. There is an expectation that to succeed at this level you need to be ruthless, work tirelessly and have little empathy. Teams work best with diversity within them, and this means allowing everyone’s unique skillset and personality to be present and heard.

As women we need to stand up to this stereotype, with the confidence that we are good enough exactly as we are, taking an active role in supporting all genders. Men need to do the same and be open to seeing gender inequalities and challenging bias. 

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 learnt only too well of the impacts of burnout in my career. It sneaks up on you and you don’t notice it until you get to breaking point. I now work hard to avoid this. I take a break every day. This might be a walk at lunch, having a coffee away from my desk with 10 minutes of Grand Designs or even just 15 minutes getting the weeds out of the garden.

Whatever you do, your brain needs time to recuperate. 

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

Be yourself. Don’t try to mould yourself into what you think is expected of you. Your power comes from your personal uniqueness.   

Thank you to all of our female executives for taking part in this series.

Check out our other interviews with Abi Shuttleworth, Managing Director and Claire Hawley, Chief Growth Officer

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