"All my family and friends have shaped me into being what I am today." Human Resources Business Partner Cecilia Amis discusses what makes International Women's Day important to her.
A little about me and why International Women’s Day is important to me
My parents immigrated to the United States from Peru and the Dominican Republic in the 1960’s. As a daughter of Hispanic parents, I was often straddled between three worlds: The one where each of my parents were born and raised and the United States where my parents built another life. All three places shaped who I am today. Although Hispanics may have a common language in Spanish there isn’t a singular voice or narrative for the Hispanic experience.
This what growing up looked like for me - strong and numerous family ties, parents with diverse economic/social/cultural backgrounds, a variety of foods/entertainment and the pressure and nonacceptance that comes from my Latin heritage in the United States where I sometimes felt like I had to be twice as perfect as everybody else.
I value differences and I’m proud of my heritage, my roots and all the lessons I have learned from my life experiences. But most of all I am proud of my unique talents as a woman and my individuality which has influenced and helped me succeed professionally and personally.
That is why International Women’s Day is important to me and why I think it is a fantastic opportunity to come together to make an impact through celebrating the past, acting in the present and focussing on the future. My hope for today is that we inspire positive action.
What will you do to “Break the Bias”, what will you do differently this year to help break the bias?
We need to understand the places in the talent and employee experience process where hidden bias can show up and then learn how to overcome those barriers.
That is why it is important for us to look at the challenges women often face and clear the path for talented and dynamic women to rise to the top. This year I have several ideas that I pledge to do more of in my role at Vattenfall:
- Hiring – revamp approach to interview and evaluation of candidates, and ensure decision makers are trained or held accountable for hiring decisions
- Succession - Focus on building a balanced talent pipeline and look at: inflow, up flow and outflow at all levels
- Continuously look to improve policies and training
- Create positive visibility of women in our workforce
Who has been the most influential woman in your life?
My role model is not famous, she was a regular person who was intelligent, authentic, kind, brave, no-nonsense attitude and who stood up for what she believed in.
All my family and friends have shaped me into being what I am today. The most influential woman in my life was my grandmother, Eufemia Mejia Campos (Diaz). She taught me how to be kind, to have compassion towards others, to value education, to work hard, to take responsibility, to be ambitious and to enjoy life.
Despite growing up in a patriarchal society, my grandmother was one of the first female University students to graduate in Peru in 1932. After graduating she became a primary school teacher and later got married. She juggled the pressure of being a mother/wife and raised five daughters who became successful professionals during turbulent political/economic times. She was a driven, talented, intelligent and ambitious woman who positively influenced her family, her profession and her community.
What path have you taken to get to where you are today?
I always knew I wanted to work with people and initially thought about going into Psychology. I majored in business at university and after graduation started my career in Finance with JP Morgan. Two years later, I realised I needed to do something different and pursued an entry level role as a Benefits Assistant in J. Crew’s corporate offices in New York and the rest is history.
I now live in the UK and have 30+ years of international HR experience across various sectors and industries. I am proud of what I have achieved and enjoyed my journey. In my role, I am often the ‘voice of reason’ in an organisation. I have a good understanding of the business and try to build trust and champion people matters. Over the course of a day, I juggle a range of spinning plates, constantly trying to make sure one doesn’t drop. While at the same time, doing my best to develop and empower the teams and leaders I work with.
Is there any advice you would give to past, current, or future self, or to other women?
- Set realistic expectations at home and work and empower other women at every step of the corporate structure.
- Find role models that inspire them- look around you; your family, the leaders around you and see if you recognise behaviours and actions that you appreciate in a leader. Find out their story and learn from them.
- Connect with the right people - empower your female co-workers by introducing them to the people who can help them access the resources and knowledge they need to grow and improve.
- Back less experienced women for projects - when new projects come up, if there’s a woman in your team who you think would lead it well, depending on your delegation power, either put her forward for it or suggest her.
- Accept and embrace individuality - not all women are the same. Embrace the ways in which the women in your team are individual—don’t expect them to adhere to a stereotypical idea of femininity and don’t hold them back when they do.