Sarah Brown took a risk moving to London in search of her dream job in 2003. Despite not having a specific role to move to, she decided to explore her passion for benefits as a health and well-being consultant at Mercer.
This brave move gave her the springboard to securing her future career. Now, 19 years later, she’s MMB’s Pacific Leader, responsible for $80 million worth of revenue across Australia and New Zealand. She also sits on both the Mercer and Marsh executive teams.
Sarah says the thing she finds most inspiring are the women around her and their ability to balance responsibilities at home with high-pressured jobs. These conflicts are often one of the greatest challenges to women in the workplace, and it is a core area where businesses can put policies and programs in place to promote gender diversity, equity and inclusion.
She explains: "I'm really proud of the women that I work with. The women who have families and children and how they balance and juggle the multiple responsibilities and perform in such an awesome way at work. I'm in awe of them. I learn a lot from them, and I'm really privileged to have women like that in my team."
Sarah shared that the good news is that many women are reporting better support from their employers in this area. “Our recent Health on Demand research, found that just under half of women (47%) rated support from their employer during the pandemic as good or very good”. She did however, caveat that while this is a step in the right direction, there is clearly still some way to go.
Flexible working is a crucial part of the puzzle, she said. The research showed that almost two thirds of women find flexible working arrangements (63%) and time off allowed during the workday to spend on health and well-being appointments (61%) to be as “highly” or “extremely” valuable.
Sarah also says understanding biases is another key areas that firms should be focusing on, and her one top tip for employers that want to start making a difference this International Women’s Day. This is something that needs to take place at all levels of the organization, and often requires an overhaul of culture from the top down.
She says: "Organizations must continually challenge themselves to avoid the unconscious bias that exists in all of us. And I think it's important that men walk a mile in their female colleagues' shoes. It's beholden on every company to examine that and try and understand the experience for women in the workplace."
As a senior woman in the business, Sarah also recognizes that she has a role to play in terms of educating and inspiring the teams she works with and setting the agenda on equality. This means challenging herself to excel and also identifying those areas where more can be done. She said that this has been particularly challenging at times, particularly through the pandemic in the most locked down city of the world. She concluded: "As one of the most senior females in the business, I think I have a responsibility to be a role model, not just to women, but also to men. This means being the best version of myself and role modelling the types of cultures and behaviours that I think are important.
“Finding the strength every day to bring my best self to work, motivating a team, taking on a new role as a leader through a significant period of change and transition, and having to do that from my spare room was tough. I had to dig deep constantly, but I had the support of my friends, really great family and my colleagues.”