Bernice Embleton, Senior Director, Financial Planning and Capacity Management at Inmarsat, is the new chair of WIN. Here she explains what being a woman in space or satcom sector means to her.
Bernice, how have you ended up in your current role at Inmarsat?
I trained to be a Chartered Accountant after gaining my Maths Degree. I then moved from auditing in an accounting practice to a telecoms business. Over the years, I’ve held various roles, including Head of Finance for that company’s Innovation unit and have enjoyed the entrepreneurial side of the business. I was pleased to find a role within the space or satcom sector of Inmarsat that offered an opportunity to support the business in its next growth phase.
Are there key skills and qualities you believe have contributed to your success in tech?
Being inquisitive, open, and willing to learn has been central to my growth. I realised early on that you won’t know everything, nor should you, and that’s where your colleagues come in. Finding connections and working collaboratively with my teammates has certainly contributed to my career success.
Tell us about the challenges you have faced as a woman in a leadership role in tech and how you overcame them.
Being overlooked for opportunities. Early on, I learnt that I needed to set expectations and ask for what I wanted rather than expecting hard work to be “rewarded” and to take risks on opportunities when they presented themselves. It may not be the path you planned to be on, but experience has taught me you always get something out of it.
Making sure changes in my personal and professional lives didn’t impact each other and ensuring your voice was always heard. I’ve found using allies to support you in key meetings, consistently delivering quality work that speaks for itself and reading the room to ensure what you have to say contributes to the conversation.
What motivated you to take the Chair of Inmarsat’s Women’s Network role?
I’ve been used to working in a predominately male environment throughout my career and wanted to change that. When I joined Inmarsat, I used WIN to find my way around the company and build my network. I became a board member to support the network and give back to those that helped me in my first year.
When the pandemic hit, the WIN became even more important for its community, and I could see how it was helping women stay connected, providing a place to be seen. The company also introduced a DE&I survey which highlighted some areas for improvement. I wanted to move the network forward to address this while continuing to provide a community for all women at Inmarsat.
What are your goals for WIN, and what changes would you like to see happen?
Through our work, we want to reach a wider global audience and increase the number of WIN allies. In terms of the changes we’d like to see happen, we think it’s really important for there to be more female representation at a senior level. Not only for current employees to look up to for their progression but also for the next generation of Inmarsat employees. We’re also aiming to expand our external network. By working with charities and different organisations, we hope to encourage more girls and women into STEM and widen our talent pool.
How do you plan to engage and support women at Inmarsat, particularly those in underrepresented groups?
We seek ambassadors from underrepresented groups to ensure we understand the issues that all women face and provide support centrally. We are also working with other employee networks at Inmarsat, including LGBTQIA, ethnic diversity, military and parents and carers. Additionally, using corporate tools like Yammer to engage the entire company allows more people to understand our objectives and how we can support them.
How can men be supportive of WIN’s goals and initiatives? What can men do to help promote gender diversity and inclusion at Inmarsat?
Four recommendations come to mind. Firstly, acting as an ally by attending WIN events and discussing them and the topics raised in team meetings. Ultimately encouraging the conversation. Secondly, engaging and seeking support from WIN to understand how they can make their space more inclusive. Thirdly, reverse mentoring – understanding what life is like for women at Inmarsat. And finally, be aware of any unconscious biases – there are many pieces of training available for employees.
What role do mentorship and networking play in advancing careers in tech, and how have you leveraged these opportunities?
I wasn’t a believer in networking until I met a professional networker. He shared with me how he effectively used his network. He also acted as an unofficial mentor, champion, and advocate. He gave me belief and confidence in myself and made me feel like I could take risks and that I had a seat at the table and a voice in the room – essentially, to be brave.
This was the turning point for me. When I joined Inmarsat, I actively created my network to understand how the company worked and who the key people were. I invested time in getting to know people, their challenges, and how we could support each other. Through the network, I found champions that could speak for me at tables I was not yet invited to, and they offered advice and guidance when faced with challenges.
How does WIN fit into Inmarsat’s overall diversity and inclusion strategy, and how does it contribute to its success?
Inmarsat is focused on increasing the diversity of our talent pipeline, and WIN plays a fundamental role in ensuring that talent remains in the company. We act as a voice for women at Inmarsat; we provide a temperature check on what is working and how Inmarsat can create an even more inclusive environment for women.
What advice would you give young women interested in pursuing a career in tech?
It’s important to understand where you fit in the industry; there are multiple roles you can have in tech. I’d recommend connecting with women currently performing the role you aspire to to understand some of the challenges you may face. Be open to opportunities, do what you enjoy, not what you think you should do and be brave.