Could you give a brief description of your career to-date?
I started my career in the finance industry in New York City and, later, spent almost a decade working as a consultant. A year or so after my first child was born, I took a step sideways to spend more time at home. Two international moves and a second child later, I embarked on an Executive MBA at London Business School and, in so doing, re-launched my career with gusto. I joined The Economist Group to head up a research and advisory team at The Economist Intelligence Unit. That was a strategic role, identifying channels for growth for the company, and it led to piloting an ‘incubator’ for new products and undertaking two acquisitions to support our healthcare strategy. Now I am running a business unit called The Economist Corporate Network.
What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do?
I love my work for many reasons, but I feel a special energy and enthusiasm for the strategic challenges. We have such a strong set of assets that can be developed and expanded and our clients are very supportive of our experimenting with new ideas. I have more ideas than time or budget, however, so I spend a lot of time sorting through the noise to uncover the best – and most pragmatic – solutions.
A close second has to be the people element: through leading and being led, I’ve been pushed to grow in ways I could not have anticipated. When this is no longer the case, I’ll know it’s time to move on.
What is the most important life lesson you have learnt from another woman?
That’s a tough one. I’ve learnt most of my life lessons from women (with some important exceptions for the men in my life). In the professional realm I was fortunate at a vital stage in my career to work for a woman CEO who believed in me and invested in me. She taught me to insist on team-wide accountability, even at the cost of popularity – a tension that I think can be especially challenging for women in leadership roles. She was also a powerful role model, with a big career, family commitments, and, seemingly, time for herself too. I’m sure it was not always as easy as it looked, but at that stage in my life and career, it meant a lot to see that one path does not always lead away from the others.
What are some of the ways you take time out of your busy schedule and unwind from work?
Work-life balance is a constant challenge, especially as I manage a global business with a team located in lots of different time zones; I’m always in touch. At home, I have two young daughters and I try to spend as much time with them as possible. One of the smartest things I ever did was invest in a number of sessions with a personal trainer a few years ago. He gave me a reality check and taught me how to make fitness a top priority in my life, for good. Now exercise happens six days a week, rain or shine, no matter where in the world I am; this makes me happy.
Do you think the way women dress can have an impact in their career?
I do. I work for a company that hires very bright people based on what they know, how they think, and how well they express themselves – so that’s the cost of entry. But advancement and taking on senior responsibilities require more than that. Many people believe how you dress should be irrelevant, but I think it’s important to project that you take yourself and your work seriously. If you dress like you would to paint the garden shed, no one will want to work for you, no one will want you to meet with clients, and you will be overlooked.
Women have the added challenge of needing to spend more time on their image as there are so many different pitfalls to avoid. I see women struggling with the lines between casual vs. professional, corporate vs. cocktail party.
What are your top tips for styling your working wardrobe?
I used to wear suits all the time: crisp white blouse, grey suit, power heels, maybe a scarf if I was inspired. Sometime over the past few years I started replacing my suits with dresses and now I cannot recall the last time I wore a suit. Dresses are easy, comfortable, and always make an impact. You’ve got to be especially careful with the ‘corporate vs. cocktail party’ line when it comes to dresses though, and this is all in the styling – mostly shoes.
Elizabeth wears the Arlington dress in cobalt blue
And finally, what is your favourite piece from The Fold AW14 collection?
I bought the Arlington dress in cobalt on the day of the photo-shoot. A week later I wore it to the office then to a gallery opening and it was comfortable enough I could share a pizza with my husband for dinner. It’s a winner.
Photos from Amelia Allen Photography.