What have awards got to do with responsible leadership? 

Sherin Aminossehe, Cohort 2016 Fellow

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A few years ago I was invited to go to the ceremony of the ‘Women of the Future’ awards by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. I went along and was impressed at all the amazing things that these women had achieved. but with the busy pace of life, changes in career and juggling a family, I didn’t give it much thought. Then about three years later, on a cold February day, came a call from the award organisers, saying that Pinky Lilani CBE DL, the incredible founder, had suggested I might want to apply for the Asian Women of Achievement Awards (sister organisation to Women of the Future). I had some reservations about entering, but I thought, if I were shortlisted, I would at the very least meet some amazing ladies both amongst other nominees and the wider networkI thought I’d give it a go. 

Amazingly, I ended up winning the Real Estate, Infrastructure and Construction category and what was remarkable about it was meeting all the previous winners whose lives have changed as a result. There was such a cross section of women; from a paediatric cardiologist  who had performed pioneering surgery to female cricket captains who had coached young disadvantaged children. It has really broadened my horizons and my network. This year I’ve been asked to be a judge! So I’m encouraging young women to apply and in the three categories for women at my level, to enter too. 

I think it’s really important to give talented young women a platform to be seen by others as it provides such a boost to their confidence. Awards tend to be very male-focused, so having a female-led award helps to redress that balance. I observed that for the younger women, winning this award had a great many benefits, in particular getting recognition from outside of their organisation, which helped add legitimacy inside it as well. 

One thing that really stands out for these awards in particular is that they focus on kindness and what can be achieved with kindness. For me, this relates to what the Forward Institute Fellowship is about - we talk about reciprocity, kindness and caring more about others as part of responsible leadership. 

The awards are also very diverse so you get to see the achievements of a wide pool of talent. There is a danger among senior female leaders to only encourage younger women who are like them, sound like them, have the same background as them, but we need to focus on talent  and not gravitate towards what we know. For cultural reasons, sometimes Asian women are told to be modest, so for me, being involved with this award flies in the face of that. omen should be less shy about their achievements.

For anyone who is skeptical about awards ceremonies, I would ask them to think about the results that they deliver for young talent. Be involved and see what happens. A number of the winners of the award have said they had never won anything before, so it was incredibly meaningful for them. It has not only given them confidence and more recognition and legitimacy, but the encouragement to carry on achieving. 

For women in particular, confidence plays such a huge role in progression in their career. In my opinion, the younger you start the better...There was a study done recently that showed that children in reception drew pictures of doctors and firemen with a 50/50 split in gender. However, once out of reception, the split became 75/25. So in the subsequent six years or so, horizons are drastically clipped. 

Since winning the award it has strengthened a reciprocity and obligation to help others develop. I’m determined that I should be part of smoothing the path for junior talent, and since we still have such a lack of balance at the top, this is an important part of boosting a young woman’s opportunity for progression. 

I’d like to encourage all Fellows (male and female) to get involved with these awards and encourage their junior women to apply. Nominations for the 2019 Women of the Future Awards are now open and close on the 4th September.