The Female Financial Times and London Stock Exchange (FTSE) Board in the UK recently released its sixth edition of the “100 Women to Watch” list, naming Charlotte Rushton, managing director, U.S. Large Law Firms, and Jessica Turner, global head, Government & Academia, both at Thomson Reuters, as women to watch in 2015. 

The FTSE is an index of companies on the London Stock Exchange and is seen as a gauge of prosperity for businesses regulated by UK company law. This year’s list includes women who hold senior executive roles in FTSE 250 firms and other significant organizations such as large non-listed companies, major charities, professional services firms, educational institutions and NHS Trusts.

Caroline Drucker, manager of Internal Communications at Thomson Reuters, recently caught up with Charlotte and Jessica and asked their thoughts on women in leadership roles today.  

Why is it important for more women to apply for board positions?

Charlotte: Studies have shown that a greater representation of women at the top of companies leads directly to better company performance because of the improvements in decision-making that result. As the role of a board is to provide overall leadership for a company or institution, it seems obvious that they would want to promote more diversity in their leadership teams, and in doing so should lead by example by ensuring diversity at the board level as well.

What advice do you have for women thinking of applying for a board position?

Jessica: I think when approaching any new role, it’s important to be clear on the experience and capabilities your reputation is built on. A board may need legal and compliance experience, strong strategy and vision setting, or a track record in managing turnarounds. Global operational experience is also highly sought after, and Thomson Reuters is one of the best places to have developed a truly global skill set.

What changes do you think need to happen for more women to be in senior roles?

Charlotte: I think it begins at the top — if the CEO declares that diversity is a high priority for improvement, that sets a great example to the organization. But it’s then important to really understand why the current mix is so poor. There is no shortage of great female talent in organizations at the mid to lower levels — so what happens to them as they gain experience? I think it’s a very true statement that people tend to hire people who “look and feel” like themselves, and this can be very bad for business. So it’s important to insist on diverse slates for open roles, as well as diverse interview panels, and to constantly check the outcomes to make sure this isn’t just lip service. I also think it’s important to dive into some of the personal characteristics that can hold women back — in general, they are less likely to self-promote and are more likely to feel like they aren’t ready for the next step as soon as men might. The more we can discuss these differences and highlight them, the better equipped we are to strengthen the balance.

When did the leadership shift happen for you and how did you step into it?

Jessica: I think that leadership is something we develop constantly throughout our careers, particularly when we take on new challenges. In every new role there is an opportunity to create a vision of what we could achieve in the market and mobilize our organization to deliver. That takes really strong leadership and focus.  

I’ve found that taking the time to think through and understand the opportunity and create the stories and images that help to make that vision come to life for others has helped. Of course the support and guidance of senior colleagues, my teams and clients has been invaluable.