IWD2021 #ChooseToChallenge: Anna Solar-Basset

Author Sarah Ingwersen
March 12, 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 skills and attributes do female leaders bring to create diverse leadership at management level? 

Commercially, a natural understanding of the demographic that drives up to 80% of consumer spending decisions. This is particularly important given the trend that COVID-19 has accelerated towards digitisation of key services (such as health and education). Relationally, in a hyper-connected world of constant availability, soft skills like empathy, collaboration and consultation are also in high demand. Of course, these are not unique to women, but are often notable. 

What does “choose to challenge” mean to you? 

Primarily, role modelling: turning up every day with the goal of operating truly effectively, so that teams or functions can execute as fully trusted advisors. I’ve been lucky enough to work for a number of senior women who showed me the value of establishing and maintaining strong relationships based on trust, truly active listening and valuing a variety of expertise in their teams. Assuming good intent is important – if and until proven otherwise, most people won’t display behaviour that necessitates active challenge (and when they do, it’s often subconscious bias, where a quiet and behind closed doors chat can be the best first step). 

What is one lesson you learnt the hard way? 

You won’t bring every stakeholder with you – most, but not all. This is regardless of whether you deploy rational arguments, interpersonal skill, or your best negotiating tactics. Even if it so obvious how you could achieve things together if you took the journey mutually, don’t waste time trying to be the irresistible force on truly immovable mountains. However, do be aware that most mountains are actually moveable! 

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

Take Sheryl Sandberg’s advice, and actually sit at it – confidently, graciously and collaboratively. Don’t sit in the back taking notes and getting the coffee. 

What impact could Kamala Harris’ appointment to Vice President have on the next generation of female leaders? 

An inspiring one, of course – and potentially even more so if she ends up without the ‘Vice’ at the front of her title! 

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

Melinda Gates has rightly pointed out that, post-COVID-19, we urgently need markets, businesses and policymakers to “treat caregiving as essential infrastructure to rebuilding our economy”. The need to equalise the burdens at home, not just at work, is a societal issue. Data consistently shows much more progress in the latter than the former. This is particularly relevant as cultural expectations shift amongst men in Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z: increasingly (and positively), men also rightly expect to be able to take advantage of new ways of working to also have family life while contributing to productive economic growth. 

What are you really, really good at? 

Work-wise; big-picture strategy, and then execution through true ownership and team empowerment. More widely – something that’s not just for work – treating everyone as a whole person. Remember that you only know (at most) half the story of people when you know them just as colleagues. Something COVID-19 has driven home for all.

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