FEMALE DOMINATED STAFF: SEXISM OR IDEOLOGY?
Just a couple of years ago, Olga Sorokina, who is a lawyer and entrepreneur, headed a team, where 90% of members were women. Why does the company change its human resources policy now and how does it manage to keep team forces balanced? Ms. Sorokina, managing partner of O2 Consulting law firm and the head of Fidentia Trust AG, told us about that.
Olga works in international legal counselling for 20 years already. Her company is among the leading ones in the sphere of M&A international legal support. O2 Consulting also legally supports other types of transactions. It was recognised by various Russian and international rating agencies as leading legal adviser. The company also made it into top 10 Russian agencies on a range of law branches. Under Olga Sorokina’s leadership, O2 Consulting actualised major investment projects in mining industry, venture capital investment, retail, development, finance, and production. Olga manages to reconcile her intense work and social activity, while coping with her ‘family team’ and educating 8 children of hers.
In May 2018, Ms. Sorokina spoke on the discussion platform of Women’s Leadership Forum called ‘Women in Business’. She participated in a roundtable discussion of women leaders. They discussed inclusiveness and possible ways of increasing the number of women taking up senior positions.
Olga, as opposed to most speakers at the event, was not a hired top manager, but controlled her own enterprise. Thus, her team’s cooperation and its results are of practical and commercial value to her. Ms. Sorokina said: “I am very much aware of the value of the female factor in business. Woman as a carrier of certain characteristics, presents a real value for a company, as those skills, which are typical for women, make team work more productive. Lawyers working in legal advising, besides sectoral expertise, require negotiating skills, resilience, and multitasking”.
According to Olga, she was setting her team up with ‘all the pragmatism’, as the staff gathered people who would bring maximum benefit to the enterprise. Such people were often women. That is why Olga was often accused of sexism. In fact, she does not support feminism, as well as any other extremes. Nevertheless, when seeking for potential employees and estimating their professional skills, Olga Sorokina would prefer to hire a woman over a man, even if their qualities are the same. She explained her way of thinking: “It is always harder for a woman to acquire certain positions. She demonstrates more power and resistance. In terms of gender discrimination in business (which, unfortunately, still exists), a woman should be head and shoulders above a man to be successful. I, as an entrepreneur, primarily need the result. Thus, there were mainly women in my team”.
So, what does it take to gather and motivate a team? Olga’s secret is in separating common values and personal principles. One can hire top-notch professionals, who qualify for their sphere perfectly. However, no one guarantees they will be able to cooperate efficiently.
Olga Sorokina said: “I try not to hire those who does not support our corporate values. I mean values, which are formed by our business partners and supported by the current team… As for me, those people will always cause problems. Having them in our staff, the team will, under any critical conditions, demonstrate weakness caused by the lack of unity. I need bright, smart, and, most importantly, like-minded people, who share common values and business principles. Those are people, who are the most valuable for the company”. Another matter is, if those members are ready to stick to the team. The point is, purely financial motivation only works until someone suggests better conditions. The main motivators here are, again, common ideology, harmonious corporate and personal relations, common views on company’s development, and affection among team members. One will never leave the team, where they are comfortable to spend most part of their time, where they can open up and develop together with their mates.
Viacheslav Fetisov, famous Soviet hockey player, was once asked, if it is possible to repeat the success of ‘KLM line’. He said that it was possible in theory but impossible in practice, as ‘KLM line’ gathered 5 star players, who played as a team for 15 years. Now there is no place in the world, where those players will not be bought in a year. It is very hard to come up with a motivator to keep them. Thus, business teams need to have completely different motivators for the key ‘players’ to work together, develop themselves and their company while achieving results.
Tina Stankevich, news agency of the Eurasian Women’s Community
Translated by Nikolay Boykov