IWD: Interview with Rachel Jacobs

Sarah Ingwersen International Women's Day, Career Advice

Taylor Root is proud to be supporting International Women's Day 2017. We have interviewed a series of our female clients asking them how they have been bold for change #BeBoldForChange

Taylor Root interviewed Rachel Jacobs, General Counsel at Springer Nature

What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
I think there are many barriers and it is hard to single out one. However, I think that given the dominance of men in senior roles, the issue of unconscious bias has a key role to play in perpetuating the status quo. It is only when we take steps to understand how unconscious bias manifests itself, and how to overcome its detrimental effects, will we be able to create more diverse leadership groups where both genders work together in an inclusive team.

What advice would you give aspiring women in your industry? 
We are very lucky in the publishing industry to have many women working in the profession and some very inspiring women leaders. That said, like all industries, there continues to be a challenge in translating this into an appropriate representation of women at senior levels. There will need to be a continuation of various structural and cultural measures to address this phenomenon. But on an individual level, my advice to aspiring women would be: (i) concentrate on performing to the best of their ability as this is a prerequisite for success in any role; (ii) identify the skills required to progress to a senior level and be proactive about obtaining those skills; (iii) work with a mentor or sponsor to challenge and support you; and (iv) most importantly, to absolutely believe that you are capable of reaching your potential. I have never believed that I would not be welcome in any room on the basis of my gender. It may be a coincidence but (so far) I have not found that any doors have been closed to me…

How do you achieve work life balance? 
This is a constant challenge and I would not profess to have the answer, but here are three rules that help me:

  • Try to simplify your work and personal life as much as possible. There are so many demands on our time and it is all too easy for this to become unsustainable. To avoid scope creep and to stop things getting incrementally but inevitably out of balance, I take the time on a regular basis to review the various demands on my time and see how I can simplify things. I tend to do this quarterly and assess which things I should stop doing, which I should do differently (i.e. more efficiently), which I should delegate etc etc in order to simplify both my personal and professional life.

  • Be clear about what your unmoveable commitments are both at work and home and have the confidence to try to stick to them. There will be rare occasions when you can’t fit these things in, but if you are clear about these commitments and plan in advance there will often be a way to balance them. I have also found that the world does not end if take an hour out to attend a school play etc. It is important to have the confidence to take time for the things that are important to you, otherwise the lack of balance this creates will undermine your sense of wellbeing. If you are a strong performer professionally and are flexible enough to ensure that you deliver on your professional obligations (e.g. working late to make sure you meet a deadline if you have taken time out to attend a school play) you should not feel prohibited from taking a bit of time out. Conversely, if you are generally comfortable with the amount of time you spend with your family, putting work first on occasion should not upset the balance too much.

  • Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Be kind to yourself. It is not possible to be all things to all people all of the time. Think carefully about how you want to live your life from a holistic perspective taking work, family, and self into consideration. Once you know what you would like to achieve, you can work to put strategies in place to manage this – for me includes sharing commitments with my partner at home as we are both responsible for creating balance in our lives. But it is important to be clear about the compromises your choices will require and to be really honest with yourself about whether you are comfortable with them. If you are not you will never achieve the balance you seek.