IWD2021 #ChooseToChallenge: Linda Orton

Author Wendy Gray
April 8, 2021

​​Disclaimer: Please note that all commentary and opinions provided in this interview are those of the individual and not the organisation/company they are employed by. 

What does “choose to challenge” mean to you? 

To me, #choosetochallenge means not accepting the status quo, asking why systems and processes are the way they are and proactively coming up with alternative and better ways to market and sell to clients, recruit and retain diverse candidates and to be truly inclusive. In my 30-year career in professional services, I have often heard many weak answers to my many direct questions. They’ve usually included some variation of “well that’s the way we’ve always done it,” “the partners won’t accept it if we change it,” “women don’t want to travel as much as this job requires,” or “it will cost too much.” Few of those answers were fact based. They’ve been driven by a fear of change and a lack of information. As I’ve matured and grown in my career, I’ve learned in order to challenge and change any system or process, I’ve needed to have data to make the case, an alternative approach that was truly viable in the environment I was in and at least one senior sponsor who was willing to embrace the journey with me. The pandemic has proven that consultants do not need to be on the road constantly or at a client site Monday-Thursday in order to deliver top quality results. I am hopeful this will change the argument that people who are parents or simply don’t want to travel full-time, can’t be great client facing professionals. I am hoping additional positive changes will also evolve for women and other underrepresented groups from this very difficult time.

How can female leaders ensure they get a seat at the table?  

If you don’t get offered a seat, bring a folding chair. If you don’t get given cutlery, bring your own recyclable set. If you don’t get served food, bring a brown bagged meal. And if you don’t get asked into the room to sit at the table after enough times, make your own table and invite your own people or simply find a new dining room.

What is one thing women don’t talk about enough? 

Remuneration. There needs to be more transparency about salaries, bonuses and other compensation in general. I find after 30 years of working with smart and sophisticated lawyers, accountants and consultants, and also having recruited, I see there continues to be a disparity between how men and women at all levels talk about comp, ask for raises and negotiate for packages in new roles. I’ve seen it with the teams I’ve managed, with senior level partners and with the professionals I placed. In my experience, women are often more comfortable asking for training or other soft benefits once in a role, but I think it is because they feel they have to know everything in order to be credible. The money conversation is never easy, but it is an area in which women need more training and that management and HR also need guidance to address their implicit biases. Without this, the pervasive gender disparity in pay will continue.

What are you really, really good at? 

Seeing the big picture and connecting the dots to implement strategic change. Sometimes the dots are within infrastructure like IT, Marketing and Talent, sometimes the dots are colleagues or actual business from different regions or practice areas, but in all cases, I excel at helping craft stories, choosing the right tools and laying out the journey that enables my professionals to work together to achieve our business or cultural goals. When I tell people I love connecting disparate dots, I always think of the Candy Dots or Candy Buttons of my youth. The small coloured dots pressed in rows on paper were perfect for sharing with groups of friends and optimistic in their rainbow presentation. I try to emulate that experience when I connect my dots as a leader.

Click below to read the full edition of IWD2021 #ChooseToChallenge: Female Leaders Across The Globe. https://indd.adobe.com/embed/bb2678fd-fafb-4e5f-b57b-bbe97612e7cf?startpage=1&allowFullscreen=true