First Women have the last word—with Faye Banks, National Grid

First Women have the last word—with Faye Banks, National Grid

The business woman I most admire is Karren Brady. She arrived in Birmingham as a fresh-faced 23-year-old. Sixteen years on she is one of the most established directors in British football and has overseen a jump into profitability and an improvement in the fortunes on the pitch for the St Andrew’s club.

 In an industry where careers are short and patience is even shorter, Karren Brady has managed to remain in the Birmingham City hot seat for almost half of her life.

To juggle my work and life balance I think about how my role in the company is benefitting the family, rather than dwell on how you’re not with your child. Perhaps you can afford certain classes or educational opportunities for your children or you’re able to put away savings for college.

It requires being able to come to terms with choices and focus on the priorities that are in the moment. Accept that there will be good and bad days. All mothers should know they are not alone and they should discuss their feelings with partners or support groups.

Local mums blogs, such as Working Mums Against Guilt, are a great way to reach out to others trying to find the same work-home balance.

My biggest career break was becoming the youngest ever Fellow of the IET in 2013. I was 34 and this really paid dividends as I went on to become the head of North East Operations for the National Grid. his was a childhood dream for me and I am relishing this opportunity. I am heavily involved with national IET initiatives to help more Young Women break through into the

This was a childhood dream for me and I am relishing this opportunity. I am heavily involved with national IET initiatives to help more young women break through into the male-dominated transmission industry.

The biggest influence on my career was my foster dad. I left the local authority care system at the age of 15 and I spent 9 months with my foster family. I was grateful to spend time with such a dedicated, passionate and professional engineer.

He gave me much-needed guidance in relation to a successful engineering career, he supported me throughout college, he provided the books, time and equipment so I could engage in a variety of practical experiments.

He also helped me obtain an electrical engineering apprenticeship which gave me the foundations and equipped me to achieve such an amazing career so far.

One thing that makes me mad in business today is…Over the past few decades, women have made amazing progress in higher education, now making up more than 57 per cent of university students. Yet, that progress hasn’t been distributed evenly over all majors.

Women still only comprise a very small percentage of students in STEM majors and hold an even smaller number of STEM jobs in academia. Low enrollment in STEM college programs naturally translates to few women working in STEM professions, as is evidenced by the fact that only 27 per cent of computer scientists and 15% of engineers are women.

Are boardroom quotas are necessary or nuts?

According to the latest analysis by Cranfield School of Management, 91 per cent of executive directors in FTSE 100 companies and 95 per cent in FTSE 250 companies are men. This is replicated across many sectors of society.

While Whitehall has embraced diversity with gusto, much of the rest of the public sector has lagged behind. Some 71 per cent of Parliament is male. In medicine, hardly any heads of hospital trusts are women, and a very small number of women are top consultants or chief executives.

Similarly, in academia which women enter in large numbers, the Times Educational Supplement reported last year that some 81 per cent of vice-chancellors, 78 per cent of professors and 72 per cent of senior managers in UK universities were male. 

The private sector has a lot to learn from the way the civil service manages its talent pipeline below board level, which is where the biggest gains can be made. Even here things are by no means perfect. It would be good for example to see a female head of the civil service.

My one tip on negotiating a pay rise is to request some time with your manager to discuss your performance. Try to allow yourself some time for this so you’re well prepared.

Although it can sometimes be intimidating, always remember that a meeting is a two-way communication. Whatever happens, you can argue your case, and answer any of their misgivings.

Don’t panic: it’s just a conversation. Make sure you’re prepared to justify your worth. Consider some of your recent achievements, the knowledge and experience you bring to your role, and why now is a suitable time for a pay rise. You should also research the average salaries in your industry for the role that you do.

In five years I see myself…

My aspirations are to become a director. I am working hard in my current role and I am also undertaking further academic qualifications to address my current weaknesses that may prevent me becoming a director within the National Grid.

My number one piece of advice to young women starting their careers is to take opportunities even if you feel you are not ready, even if it scares the heck out of you. The best advice that I ever got was “fake it ‘till you make it”.

Women tend to overprepare, overthink and over analyse every opportunity and then it’s gone. Someone else has taken it. Sometimes the best way to learn and get the experience is to just jump in and do it! Project that confidence and soon it will become a part of you.

My favourite wind down activity is going out for a long run – time permitting. I tend to refocus and spend time absorbing critical information whilst out on a run.

The last book I read was Strategy Safari by Henry Mintzberg and Joseph Lampel. It was very interesting. This book brings real humour to a variety of strategy schools.

The one thing I can’t live without is my family. I really enjoying spending quality time with my husband and two boys They help me put into context many of the difficult situations that I have encountered at work.


About Faye Banks

Faye Banks is an electrical engineer. She is the North East Electrical Transmission and Asset manager for National Grid. She began her career as a line operator in a manufacturing plant.


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