For Shaka Maharajh, MMB Multinational Chief Operating Officer, International Women’s Day (IWD) is all about bringing your best self to work, having equal opportunities to shine, and finding ways to make sure that people are judged on the things they achieve, rather than their biology or gender.
She says that what’s most inspirational to her is achieving her own goals, whether that’s achieving her actuary an fellowship qualification, building a great client relationship, or motivating the teams she works with. After starting out as a teacher, she found that the interpersonal nature of her role at MMB, gave similar job satisfaction from working with young students.
She explains: “When I came into the corporate world, I found that I liked motivating people, trying to bring out the best of my team and really making them grow into successful people. The second part of that is working with clients to help them be successful in their roles too. There's nothing more invigorating than coming out of a client meeting where, you think: “I have really nailed it. I have helped them get their job done and they're going to look good in front of their boss. That really gives you a good thrill.”
Shaka also believes that it is those same workplace relationships that can help in times of crisis. She found that when she was going through difficult times at home, for instance during her divorce, that being supported in the office environment was one of the things that helped her to carry on successfully.
She says: “That was a very hard time in my life, but my work family surrounded me and offered help and a safe space to talk. Going through something tough and knowing that colleagues will be supportive and you can take the time you need is really powerful."
She adds that one of the best things about working at MMB is the focus on equality and inclusion. In particular, she pointed to the pandemic as just one example where senior leadership prioritised making sure everyone was well, rather than prioritising profits.
She explains: “The culture at MMB is very employee-focused. The message from company leaders is let's be sure that we're treating our colleagues the right way. I love that about MMB - that it's not always all about the financials, it's about how we make ourselves better together."
This focus on wellness and employee support is growing among forward-thinking businesses, and consequently we are finding that more women than ever are seeing their workplaces as sources of support. In our Health on Demand research, we found that almost half of women (47%) rated support from their employer during the pandemic as “good” or “very good”, while 65% report feeling highly energized at work on a daily basis.
This is great news, but of course there is always more that organizations can do. For Shaka, a key priority is making sure that employers give women the same opportunities as their male colleagues. This includes making sure that flexible working practices don’t lead to women having fewer chances to progress.
She explains: "Give me the opportunity. Let me show what I can do personally and not because of who I am or because I'm a woman. Let me show the quality of my work and help me advance. That's what we need to be aware of - we're all people and it is the value that we bring to the organization that should be measured, not judged - nothing more!
"We have a lot of mothers in our team including those who work part-time. When I talk to them, they do feel like they might be missing out. They ask: "am I not getting promoted because I'm not here as much? Maybe I'm not picking up as many projects as other team members, but while I'm here I'm still giving it my all." We need to look out for this and make sure that we're consciously showing these colleagues that they are as valuable to us as anybody else.”