Wednesday 8 March is International Women’s Day in 2023 and whilst we want to celebrate, we want to make sure we spotlight the work of some of the incredible women we work with and alongside.
So each day this week, we’ll be sharing the story of a different woman leading businesses and divisions. Today we’re talking to Jackie Ronson, CEO of the AA Start Up at The AA. The AA work to protect motorists and put their interests first.
Who most inspired your career or mentored you to your level of success?
There’s no doubt my desire to succeed in business came from my mother. She was the main breadwinner in our family and established a very successful business in a male-dominated sector at a time when women leaders and entrepreneurs were uncommon.
Her work ethic was incredible – I have been known to jest that she is responsible for my lack of work-life balance today! However, her commitment, drive and integrity have been values that I try to live up to.
My first boss, who was a woman, was also instrumental in the way she mentored and shaped me as a professional, removing any doubts that women could succeed and lead in male dominated businesses and that retaining feminine traits was a super power and not an inhibitor to career progression.
What policies or practices does your organisation have in place to allow women to thrive?
The AA has a range of great policies encouraging diversity and inclusion more broadly as well as proactive, targeted programmes aimed to help women thrive at work. For example, the Driven Women programme focusses on developing senior female talent into future leaders. There are also targeted programmes aimed at encouraging women to join the AA Driver Academy and our patrols operation, providing the support and skills they need to thrive in what are traditionally male-dominated environments.
I’ve also been fortunate to work with a number of enlightened male leaders who have supported my initiatives to bring women’s networks, leadership and skills courses into the business. Marc Allera, CEO BT Consumer, sponsored the Women’s Network and our Speak EEasy programme designed to give female middle managers visibility and a voice in front of executives.
How do you try and pass down support and mentorship to women in your industry or organisation?
If you’ve never heard of Madeleine Albright then look her up. She was an UN ambassador and the first woman to serve as the U.S. Secretary of State and has some great quotes on surviving and thriving as a women in the workplace. One that I particularly like is, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”
Every day there are opportunities to be supporting fellow female colleagues. This can range from informal encouragement and feedback or some advice over a coffee to more formal coaching and mentoring. I’ll always make time for anyone that asks, because it often takes a bit of courage to ask for support.
Another great quote from Scott Dinsmore: “The fastest way to do the things you don’t think can be done is to hang around people already doing them.”
There are a range of great women’s networks that provide fantastic, safe environments to share and support one another. I was a board member of City Women Network and would encourage other senior women to look it up. However, there are many other networks to consider depending on the stage of your career and what you’re looking to take (and give) from being a member.