International Women’s Day: Celebrating inspiring women at Barclays
We asked Barclays leaders to name a woman who inspires them at the organisation, and to tell us how they are making their mark across the bank and beyond. The nominators and nominees tell us what they admire about each other – and what this year’s International Women’s Day theme, #BreakTheBias, means to them.
Sasha Wiggins and Colette Scarlett: learning from colleagues at all levels
When Colette and Sasha met for the first time at a Barclays flagship event – Colette as the event facilitator and Sasha as host – they were inspired by each other’s approaches. They reflect on leadership, breaking down barriers and why it’s important to step outside your comfort zone.
Sasha Wiggins, Group Head of Public Policy and Corporate Responsibility
“I think we can all benefit from hearing other perspectives and learning from colleagues at every level of the organisation.
I’ve learned a huge amount from Colette. She is always wanting to improve and regularly seeks feedback. Her ability to be open and adaptable is hugely admirable. I hope that as she progresses through Barclays, Colette will continue to step outside of her comfort zone. I wouldn’t have the job I have today if I hadn’t stepped out of my own comfort zone, and realised the importance of taking opportunities to learn new skills.
International Women's Day is a great opportunity to take a step back and celebrate progress that is being made, but it’s important that we try to celebrate successes all of the time, and always look for ways we can improve. To me, ‘breaking the bias’ is about removing barriers, so that every person – irrespective of their gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or any other factor – is able to contribute to and challenge decision-making across the organisation.”
Colette Scarlett, Assistant Vice President, Group CEO Office
“I'm very much a person who keeps my head down and gets the job done, so it was a shock and a privilege to be nominated. It did prompt a moment of reflection where I said to myself, ‘Colette, you are doing something right.’ There's a massive representation gap for young Black women on executive committees and leadership roles at FTSE 100 companies – so why couldn't that be me?
When I first came across Sasha, I watched her in action and thought, ‘Wow.’ When she talks there's a gravitas in her tone and her words that makes people sit up and pay attention. She’s got this incredible grit and determination, and she’s honest. She doesn’t try to fake her way through something if she wants further clarity – she will always seek the answer from relevant experts and increase her own knowledge and understanding. I think that’s crucial in a leader.
Now more than ever, we’re hearing about intersectionality. I am Black, I am female, I come from a lower socioeconomic background, and in the past, I’ve shied away from embracing who I am. ‘Breaking the bias’ means that I will speak up, be confident – and ultimately help create an environment where difference and equity are valued.”
Sue Baines and Nikita Lazaroo: advancing diversity and inclusion agendas
Sue Baines and Nikita Lazaroo work together in Transact and Pay, Barclays UK, where they focus on developing digital money management features to enhance the customer experience and protecting customers from fraud. They discuss how they are working to make the bank a more diverse and inclusive organisation.
Nikita Lazaroo, Digital Product Manager, Payments
“I believe strongly in taking ownership of whatever you’re working on, and always trying to find a better way to do something, because that's how you really develop yourself. I was thrilled when we won a Barclays Diversity and Inclusion Award last year for Her Own Boss, but being recognised as a ‘woman that inspires’ was completely unexpected.
I’m often inspired by women around me, including Sue. I was always inspired by her work in the diversity and inclusion space before I joined her team. Now I know she’s also an energetic and transparent leader who creates a great working environment. I admire the way she prioritises our social purpose as a bank – because in an area like payments, it would be easy to focus only on transactions and functionality. Sue empowers her team, and she will always take our views into account. If she asks for my opinion, I know she really means it.
To other women starting out in their careers, I say, don't be afraid if you don't always know the answers. What I've learned so far is that if I'm being challenged and I'm passionate about what I'm doing, then I can do my job well.”
Sue Baines, Director of Debit Card Optimisation and Growth
“I’m so impressed with how Nikita balances her day job with being actively involved in driving Barclays’ diversity and inclusion agendas. Nikita joined us as a graduate in 2019, and not only is she making a significant impact in her first permanent role with Barclays, she’s also helping to drive the bank’s societal purpose with a women-focused podcast she co-founded called Her Own Boss.
What Nikita has achieved already is phenomenal: through her own energy and ideas, she is driving forward something really meaningful for female entrepreneurs. I'm actively involved in diversity and inclusion myself, through my role as Co-Chair of the bank’s LGBT+ Employee Resource Group, Spectrum, and I see colleagues doing so many extraordinary and inspiring things. I draw energy from people like Nikita because their work is just so affirmative.
I think it’s vital that we have a day to recognise and celebrate women’s outstanding achievements. What we sometimes forget, perhaps here in the UK – where, let's face it, there's still a ton of work to do to create equality for women – is that this day is really significant for women whose rights may be severely limited. It's incumbent on all of us to agitate for change, to promote ourselves and to support women. As for Nikita, I encourage her to continue to be bold and resilient.”
Azura Mason and Lily Tillman: prioritising citizenship and local communities
Azura Mason and Lily Tillman met while mentoring for NJ LEEP – a college access and success programme supporting students from under-resourced communities in Newark, New Jersey, US. They connected over their shared values, and their paths have been crossing ever since.
Lily Tillman, Vice President, Legal
“Because I’ve personally benefited from mentoring – particularly from female colleagues – I try to pay it forward. One major lesson I've taken from my career is the importance of supporting those beneath you and seeking out mentors above you. I’ve also grown more confident in challenging things that I believe need to be changed. It can be hard, as a woman, to raise your hand and speak out. It is critically important to do so to further your career, advocate for others and better the organisation.
I’m honoured to be nominated by Azura. Although we don’t work together directly, we’ve participated in the same volunteer and diversity events over the years. We’ve always had a very collegial relationship and I’m thankful that she takes an interest in my development and performance. Her own career path at Barclays has been very impressive. She’s not afraid of a new challenge – in her time here she has pivoted to different roles, and that diversity of experience is something I value.
Being a woman in finance isn’t always easy, so I appreciate having Azura as a resource, a mentor and a friend.”
Azura Mason, Global Head of Race at Work
“Lily and I share the same values. Not only do we have the same commitment to service to our community, but also a dedication to excellence in our professional lives. Lily has an amazing professional reputation, and specialised legal expertise in securitised products. I nominated her because the way she shows up in our community is just as important as the way she shows up in the workplace.
During the pandemic, Lily displayed leadership taking responsibility for some major pieces of work for the bank. She’s super diligent in her day job. And although being a corporate lawyer can be taxing, Lily always makes time to give back and invest in the next generation. I think Lily and I have both learned important lessons from our mentees – you can always learn from junior and budding professionals. I’ve personally learned very helpful lessons about self-care from other younger colleagues.
Previously, conversations about gender in the workplace have focused on the assumption that women were always primary caregivers in their families – and while that is sometimes a relevant reality, what was frequently left out of the conversation is that women are amazing professionals. To me, ‘breaking the bias’ is pushing against that. I hope Lily continues to stay grounded as a professional, and remembers who she is – so that she can succeed even under potential adversity or challenges.”
Claire O'Connor and Summer Johnson: asking the important questions
Summer Johnson has impressed Claire O’Connor with her knowledge, passion and dedication. Summer, in turn, says she’s one of many people who considers Claire a role model. They reflect on what needs to be done to break down biases in workplaces.
Claire O’Connor, Head of Loan Capital Markets and Acquisition Finance
“Summer has always had a strong sense of service and a desire to have a positive impact on the world around her. She digs deep to learn as much as possible and deliver differentiated ideas to clients – she earned a master’s degree at Columbia University at the same time as working for Barclays. Focused and highly productive, she exudes enthusiasm and creativity.
Different perspectives, ideas and solutions spring from different experiences and backgrounds. Those newer to the field may have better or faster ways of doing things. They may raise fresh and important questions that should be addressed, which may not be obvious to colleagues who have been around longer.
Biases around abilities and ambition can take many forms: ‘someone who is young is not serious; someone who is returning from maternity leave doesn’t want a bigger job; someone who’s a mother cannot be as serious about her work as others – and if she is, she’s not a good mother’. To break biases, we need to call them out – shine light on them, ask the important questions and provide support to people affected by them.”
Summer Johnson, Vice President, Sustainable and Impact Banking
“I admire Claire’s advocacy, leadership, poise and presence. Her accomplishments push me to be a better worker, colleague, mentor, mentee, friend and family member – I feel truly honoured to be nominated by her.
I think ‘breaking the bias’ this International Women’s Day is about overcoming stereotypes and acts of discrimination, no matter how big or small. To support this, organisations should be proactive in creating safe places for people to have difficult conversations – and help colleagues to be open and speak up for themselves and others.
One group doing just that at Barclays is Win, which aims to help the bank attract, retain and develop talented women. As Head of the Philanthropy Committee on the Win JAC Steerco, which focuses its efforts on junior women, I help voice the needs of our colleagues to the group’s steering committee and senior leaders. We seek out opportunities to boost community involvement and outreach, targeting social issues that directly affect women.”
Caroline Graham and Alpa Jotangia: campaigning for women at Barclays and beyond
Caroline Graham and Alpa Jotangia met as representatives for Barclays’ gender resource group, Win, in a discussion with senior leaders about support for the gender agenda. They share how they’ve bonded over their shared passion for advocacy.
Caroline Graham, Head of External Engagement, Legal
“Alpa impressed me from our very first meeting – she was clearly bright, articulate, motivated and not afraid to challenge others. During a recent restructuring of Win UK, of which I’m Co-Chair, Alpa was instrumental in ensuring a smooth transition for the regional committees. She is a fantastic role model for anyone looking to develop soft skills and build their network.
Diversity of thought is incredibly important. I’m inspired by the energy, enthusiasm and the great ideas my Win colleagues bring to the table – particularly approaches from different industries or other financial institutions.
We can learn so much from newer colleagues. That’s what makes reverse-mentoring so important. I think I can spot a few future CEOs in our Win committees and I look forward to seeing them flourish in the future. As for my own future career achievements – I think the biggest is still to come, and I’m looking forward to it!”
Alpa Jotangia, Vice President, Barclays UK Strategic Regulatory Change
“I was humbled to be nominated by Caroline. I am in awe of her and her accomplishments at Barclays. I’ve never thought of myself as ‘inspiring’, but I am very passionate about advocacy. We have an amazing team here at Win – colleagues that take the time to get involved, devote their energy and make a difference together. Now that’s inspirational.
In order to #BreakTheBias, we need to learn and develop – taking responsibility for our own actions, leading by example and having important discussions to enable us to live in a world free from discrimination. And I think organisations need to lead the way, by being transparent about gender statistics and actively work on delivering key milestones that support women.
Awareness alone is not enough – systemic change is key. I want my two young daughters to grow up in a world where diversity is celebrated and differences are respected.”