Credit — Icon Business Media

“Be persistent and passionate about what you do, it’s all about the people.”

Introducing Maggie van’t Hoff, Head of Balance at Shell UK #FlexAppeal

As part of the #AsPopularAs blog series on female trailblazers, I am proud to introduce Maggie van’t Hoff, President of Balance UK at global oil giant, Shell, where a key element of her remit is to highlight the opportunities, progression and retention of women.

On first meeting, van’t Hoff’s remarkably relaxed exterior belies a formidable hardworking and dynamic operator. At Shell, van’t Hoff is widely regarded as a force to be reckoned with for her work on gender balance. She is passionate about creating more opportunities for flexible working, building greater gender equality and promoting inclusiveness.

Through her role as President of The Shell UK Balance network and drive, which is part of a global strategy in Shell for balanced teams, she is charged with addressing the gender imbalances at work.

Van’t Hoff’s aim is to target both women and men equally within the organisation, with the same gender balance message because, she says, “Without the other 50% of the company being involved it is pointless — we need our male stakeholders to get on board, otherwise the message is lost.”

As part of the Balance project roll-out, in 2018 Shell is aiming to pilot a new kind of returner scheme involving the recruitment, development and mentoring of 15 people who have taken a career break the opportunity to step but into the corporate world for a few months on a flexible basis. The pilot aims to allow people to come in and see what it’s like to work in Shell while getting stuck into a real project for a period of 8–12 weeks. Regardless of how long or why you have been out of the workplace we believe you can return and have a fully burgeoning career, if you choose.

Previously, van’t Hoff was the CIO for Shell’s Retail business comprising 44,000 forecourts globally, she is also currently VP for IT Transformation and Value. The 30-years-and-counting Shell executive has worked at the Dutch Petroleum Giant flexibly for the past 9 years, 4 days a week.

So how does she manage? “Passion. I am passionate about what I do. My mantra has always been simply, ‘Always Deliver What You Say,” sound advice, worth taking on board, given her dynamic career trajectory.

She says she has always been passionate about equality and it was her own experiences of inequality issues at work following her various maternity career breaks that spurred her on.

“Each time I returned from a maternity break I was challenged in finding the right next role. I fought hard to get back into the driving seat, I used my previous work network, I contacted HR relentlessly, I pushed and pushed to get my career back on track.” It was not easy to do which is why I want to work to support other women in the same position.”

Shell stands out as a progressive global player when it comes to equality issues with its own global minimum standard for paid maternity leave seat at 16 weeks and across its UK business the company is continuing to look at how it can address gender equality by offering maternity mentoring, senior women’s networks, development programmes for women, enhanced shared parental leave and the intended brand of returners programmes.

On International Women’s Day on March 8th 2017 Shell continued to address gender parity by collecting pledges from employees. Those who had made pledges and acted on them from 2016 were highlighted. A special outcome was one senior leader who successfully changed his team to 50% female over the past 12 months.

So what advice would Maggie van’t Hoff give to any female returners?

1. Use your network and try to join networks like ‘Mums in Tech’ that offers free training and advice if you feel your skill set is rusty.

2. Find a working mum and ask them to mentor you or apply for a mentor from a social enterprise there is one called ‘modern muse’ which aims to offer advice and mentoring to women and girls of all ages.

3. Take some online training if you feel your skill set is rusty. Courses like Digital Mums work really well.

4. Get Out More! Panel events work really well and can help build confidence and teach you what you need to know.

And Van’t Hoff’s bottom line?

“Be persistent and passionate about what you do, it’s all about the people. Making them successful makes you successful.”

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