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Ladies First: Celebrating Female L&D Leaders This International Women’s Day

Roberta Gogos
Mar 08 2022

In the midst of preparing a ‘ones to watch’ list of L&D movers, shakers, thinkers, do’ers and innovators, it occurred to us: despite being the driving forces of some of the most successful L&D initiatives, women are often very underrepresented in these lists. Gender inequality at the executive level in the learning system market was cited as an issue back in 2019, and we’re still mindful of it today. 

To us, it’s a bit of a paradox given the number of highly successful female L&D leaders Fuse counts as customers, and so on this International Women’s Day 2022, we’re going to recognise some of the female leaders we have the pleasure of working with. 

Why is celebrating these leaders important? Because for women, the career ladder is still fraught with broken rungs, and any woman who has scaled it to leadership has conquered the odds the whole way up. The evidence is everywhere: in McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2021, we learned that across all industries and roles, women are still promoted at a slower rate than men. Only 86% of women are promoted to manager for every 100 men at the same level. 

According to report authors Adriana Gascoigne, Sian Griffiths, Petra Kubalcikova, Gayatri Shenai, and Cathy Wright: “early‐career promotions are critical to success‚ so this broken rung on the leadership ladder means that companies end up preparing fewer women for senior roles.” 

Celebrating women's achievements and increasing visibility, while calling out inequality, is key. So, today, ahead of our main ‘ones to watch’ list, we’re putting ladies first and celebrating some of our female customer’s achievements in L&D, forging positive visibility for women and their contributions to workforce success through learning.

Who Are The Ladies to Watch in L&D? 

In no particular order:

Rachel Hutchinson, Director of Learning and Development at Hilti

Rachel Hutchinson is the Director of Learning and Development at Hilti, a global construction organisation and a long-time Fuse customer. She recently authored two chapters in the book Leading the Learning Function.

Rachel has led the way as Hilti has transformed its approach to learning and development, introducing a next-generation learning system from Fuse and a completely new approach to content, involving encouraging user-generated content. She has helped Hilti's team see their role as content creators and curators, giving the company of more than 30,000 people more control of their learning. 

She has created a truly inclusive and learner-centric environment at Hilti that employees love. Rachel is a several-time panellist on Fuse webinars and frequently featured in our blogs for very good reason: her working in aligning Hilti’s L&D programme with KPIs set by executive-level stakeholders - and delivering successfully against them - is truly impressive.

We love a good quote, and this one from an interview with Rachel in the February 2019 edition of Training Mag is one of our favourites:

Everyone learns every day - in a variety of ways for a variety of needs. Ensuring that lifelong learning and workplace learning take the same approach and are available to everyone means that the organisations can benefit financially while people can be more engaged in their own development journeys in all aspects of their life.”

We highly recommend watching Rachel explain Hilti’s L&D transformation with Fuse, where she explains how Hilti moved from a course-centric approach, to learning-on-the go with Hilti experts, on the Fuse Platform. 

Lyn Warren, Retail and People Director at Joules

Google Lyn Warren and you’ll quickly realise that the unique combination of retail, HR and learning expertise she brings to the table is a powerful differentiator, and one that has made her a sought after leader in L&D. From Argos, to Home Retail Group, to Virgin Active, to Carpetright to now Retail and People Director at UK global premium lifestyle group Joules, Lyn has a history of success when it comes to driving change and success in learning. 

In fact, we worked with Fuse in her role at Carpetright to implement the Fuse platform, so we’ve been aware of her track record for many years. 

The stories of how Lyn transformed learning at both Carpetright and most recently at Joules (launching Fuse at the start of the pandemic no less) shows her commitment and belief in the potential for learning to build community at companies - even when employees are working remotely. 

Her commitment to these programmes should come as no surprise: in an article in Retail Week, readers can see just how much hard work Lyn has put into becoming one of the top retail L&D experts. Paying her way through university by moving up the ranks in retail, and continuing to do so as a single mother shows what an exceptional example Lyn is to aspiring women in L&D. 

Above and beyond that, Lyn is helping others follow in her path: 

I recruit people who I believe will have the tenacity and passion to do a great job; they learn the rest,” she says. “I have taken people from store or operational roles who have ‘grown up’ in retail and brought them into HR teams with no experience to give them a foot in the door. Quite often store colleagues will express an interest in a career in HR and I get them involved in projects with my team, which gives them exposure and confidence, and has often resulted in my team trying to find a full-time role for them.” - Retail Week

Viivi Vepsä, Senior Learning Architect at Demant

What does a learning architect do? Ask Viivi Vepsä of Demant (a world-leading hearing healthcare and technology group that offers innovative technologies, solutions, and know-how to improve people’s health and hearing) and she’ll tell you that she sees learning as a key competitive advantage to meet Demant’s commercial objectives, and that “a Learning Architect builds a landscape where people are engaged in learning that is relevant for, and beneficial to, the organisation and themselves.” 

This is expert insight, particularly given the wealth of experience Viivi brings to the role. With many years of experience as a learning architect in retail and corporate IT at companies including Audika Group and Alfa Laval, Viivi knows exactly what it takes to establish a culture of continuous learning to drive commercial excellence. 

We see this every day in her work with Fuse, and we’re never surprised to hear her industry peers refer to her as ‘one of the brightest minds in the learning industry,’ ‘an L&D unicorn,’ or ‘an absolute front runner when it comes to modern learning.’ The results Viivi has helped achieve with Demant’s use of the Fuse platform are truly impressive

To hear more from Viivi, check out our Solving the Learning Engagement Problem on-demand webinar.

These are just three of the inspiring ladies of L&D we are working with. As Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist and activist once explained, "The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights." So, from us at Fuse, a big thank you thank you to all the women in the L&D community for everything you do to make a positive difference every day.

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