Published: 04 July 2019

Athena Swan Lecture Series launched

Last week on 24 June, we launched the Surrey Business School (SBS) annual Athena SWAN lecture series. Launching this lecture series is part of SBS’s commitment to equality and diversity and reflects our support of the Athena SWAN principles.

We were delighted to be joined by Irene Dorner, our keynote speaker, who has been Chair of Control Risks, the global risk consultancy, since 2017. She was appointed Deputy Chairman and CEO of HSBC Bank Malaysia in 2007 then CEO and President of HSBC USA in 2010 until retiring from the role in 2014. She also sits on the Boards of AXA and Rolls Royce as an independent director, and has chaired the Board of Virgin Money.

Irene explained the ‘unwritten rules’ she and many of us have encountered throughout her career; touching on the personas women and those from minority groups are required to create which are conducive to the cultural norms of their organisation in order to progress. She continued how the act of changing yourself to be different from what you are, rather than changing your environment, takes a huge amount of time, energy and devotion and is often unsustainable.

In particular, Irene stresses the importance of encouraging diversity, and creating an equal playing field in the workplace, in order for all individuals to thrive in an environment which works for everyone.  

Irene concluded her talk by sharing some key learnings from her career on achieving success when trying to reach the top. Most importantly was the need for a solid network and how working hard is simply not enough. You must reinvest in your network and it will do the same for you. And finally the importance of having the courage and resilience to see changes through when it comes to organisational culture, as culture flows from the top.


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