Women can do anything — but not everything. As the largest online career community for women, we at Fairygodboss realize that balance is a myth, and that picking what to prioritize when everything feels important on a day-to-day basis isn't always easy. In the #MakingTime series, women share with us how, for one day, they chose to spend their most precious resource: time.
Who: Dame Helena Morissey
What: Mother of nine, Head of Personal Investing at Legal & General Investment Management, and former CEO of Newton Investment Management; Morissey also founded the prolific 30% Club to get more women into the boardroom and went on to found the Diversity Project, which aims to improve diversity across the UK’s financial services industry.
I wake, shower, cuddle the dog (a cockapoo puppy), load the washing machine and then check Twitter and my emails. I’m an early riser and the time to myself helps me to prepare calmly for the day. I can think about what’s ahead, about what my team is working on and anything that I might need to do straight away when I arrive into the office.
I still have [four out of nine] of my children at home, so I wake them up and help them get ready. I usually grab my breakfast at my desk rather than in the house, typically porridge or a croissant. There’s not a huge amount of time to eat at home myself as there are so many others to feed first! My husband is an incredible support – he decided almost two decades ago that he would be the one at home – so while I’m helping the girls, he makes their packed lunches. I braid their (long) hair, make sure they have everything they need, and write the day’s activities and who is collecting each child where and when on a white board (we only attempt one day at a time!).
I dress about five minutes before leaving for work. Usually I pull on one of my trademark brightly coloured dresses and simple pumps. I love fashion but have an effective uniform for work, clothes that I feel confident in and take one extra decision out of the day. Luckily I have a very short commute on the London underground and can be at my desk within half an hour of walking out of the house. Logistics are vital when you have a lot on in your life!
If I’m meeting other board members at Legal & General, chairing a Diversity Project meeting, or speaking at a conference, I tend to have early meetings so I can fit everything in. On the rare occasion that I have a free hour or so at 8am, I try to juggle my extra-curricular interests. Many of these are diversity or charity related, so I like to research things that matter to me, read papers for whatever the next committee meeting is, or complete any admin. Sometimes you might find me letter writing – we’re planning a big event with the equivalent of the Girl Scouts in the UK and a big fundraising event with the Mayor of London in the coming months – and sometimes the best way to get people to sit up and pay attention to what you’re doing is to send them a hand-written letter.
I often have a meeting with my team heads or catch ups with team members one:one. We update each other on what’s going on, share ideas and anything new that’s happened in the markets. I’m heading up a new business that’s aimed at creating a new generation of investors in the UK, which is motivating and very rewarding, but others have tried to do the same and haven’t pulled it off. So we have to innovate. This means keeping our ears to the ground on everything from technology to what people are watching on Netflix! Some of my team work from home (we have a flexible working policy) so one of them could be dialling in. One member of my team worked remotely from three different countries in one month. It suited her and she was just as productive as if she was in the office.
My week usually consists of at least one or two speaking engagements. I’m lucky that I work in the City of London and it’s really easy to get around (they call it the Square Mile) so I tend to walk or hop on the underground to whatever conference or event I’m talking at. That’s easier said than done in heels but I get a bit of fresh air. Typically, I’m speaking at conferences about the asset management industry and the future of UK business, diversity, personal investing or a book I wrote that was published earlier this year, A Good Time to Be a Girl. Recently, we launched a form of investment fund that invests more in companies with a greater number of women in the workforce and on-boards, and I love speaking about that. And not to like-minded people either – the audiences that start out sceptical are the most interesting ones.
I try to do a Pilates class at lunchtime a couple of times a week and one other class either on my way home from work or early in the morning. That said, it does hinge on what my day’s like. Exercise is important, both physically and mentally. I find it helps build stamina and if I manage to squeeze a workout in during lunch it reenergises me for the afternoon. I grab a salad on my way back to the office (quite often the same one from Pret, I’m pescatarian) and eat this quickly before the next meeting. It’s important to have time to reflect and I try to have gaps carved out in my diary to do so. If I don’t, I have to deliberately put in time to discern! Inevitably, there are occasions where these gaps have to be used for essential family admin – I do most of that first thing in the morning but sometimes there are calls to make that can’t be done at 6am! I’m helping my eldest daughter plan her wedding at the moment, which we’re having at home (she gave us seven weeks’ notice). My youngest is nine and when the children are on holiday I can be scrambling around to help them with anything from their social calendars to orthodontist appointments.
Evening events are part and parcel of my job and the wider commitments I have, but I try to limit myself to two in a week. I quite often have to wear the dress I wore during the day, as there’s no time to go home and change. My makeup and hair is also low maintenance, which helps me move quickly from a corporate setting to an awards ceremony, dinner or networking event.
If I don’t have anything on in the evening, I head home around 5:30pm and try to give my time to my family. We have a sort of ‘happy hour’ at 6pm before dinner where we all check in with one another. It’s not always possible but it’s a routine I try to stick to. Most nights we do eat together too, which means we have that valuable time to catch up and listen. It’s always been a big part of our family life to talk over the dinner table.
I will usually quickly check my emails again but try to make sure this doesn’t take over the whole evening. Most nights we’ll watch a TV show together like Modern Family or the re-runs of 7th Heaven, or I’ll call my eldest daughter who lives in California – it’s always lovely to talk and I can see my 8 month-old grandson. Facetime is wonderful!
As I said, I’m an early riser and I’m also early to bed. Sleep is a vital part of being able to sustain a busy life. I don’t believe in the ‘you can sleep when you’re dead’ mentality. If I don’t sleep, I will be dead! I try to head to bed by 10pm after settling the younger children and looking through what’s coming up tomorrow to make sure I’m as prepared as possible, whether that be rehearsing a talk I’m giving or making sure I’ve read all the papers for a board meeting and have thought about the points I want to raise. I often get asked to go on breakfast radio or late night TV – given my bodyclock I have a preference for the first, and have learned that either way, a producer will tend to make contact about 9pm. I’ve learned to enjoy routine when I can, and to adapt to last minute requests if they make sense for the business or the campaigns I’m working on. I’ve learned as I’ve got older not to try to control everything – but instead to be open-minded, to listen to other points of view and be optimistic as to what the next day might bring.
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