This much I know: Viki Holton, Ashridge Business School

08 April 2015

“Holton"

In our fourth profile of finalists from CMI’s Management Article of the Year, Viki tells us about the diversity riddle, the pressure of deadlines and who inspires her to do well

Colin Marrs

As well as being a keen bell ringer outside work, Ashridge research fellow Viki is ringing a professional bell for female careers. In her essay Women in Business – shortlisted for CMI’s Management Article of the Year award – she and co-author Fiona Dent explored key areas of the female workplace experience, such as who had helped them most in their career, career enablers and hindrances, and issues around management and leadership styles.

Here, Viki tells us how she came to be involved with this research – and why she looks to Anita Roddick for lessons in inspiring women.

My management-research work happened to me by accident. I was working in administration in various places and saw a role available at a business school. Once I started, I became fascinated so I moved into research.

Diversity as an issue really interests me. It is one of those areas that firms find it difficult to get right. A lot of companies seem to think you can do it once, tick the box and then move on. In 2012, we started some research and weren’t sure whether women still faced discrimination in the workplace. We spoke to a lot of people and found that they thought they’d faced it. It seems to be universal – lots of the same issues recurred across the world. I am just starting a book about women’s careers for Bloomsbury.

Writing a book is a big challenge. My last one took six months. Sometimes you think you are doing well, and sometimes you feel daunted by the deadlines you have set yourself.

I am a campanologist. I started bell-ringing so long ago, I can’t remember when. I live in a village and went along to the church to find out what it was all about, and got hooked. There is a weekly practice and I can go to other bell towers when they are open. It is very enjoyable and absorbing.

I am a keen winemaker. I bought some vines a few years ago – the same variety that are grown at Hampton Court. A lot of years they don’t do that well: you need the right weather conditions and need to be lucky with pests. One year, we managed to make our own wine. We thought it would be rubbish but surprisingly it tasted OK.

Body Shop founder Anita Roddick is my hero. She was so idealistic about what she wanted to achieve, and so determined to do things differently. That she also made a fortune is almost coincidental.

I like village life. I am in a village near to Milton Keynes and have always lived in the area. It is a nice mix. There are towns like St Albans but there is also a bit of countryside. It is not quite Cornwall or Yorkshire but it is still lovely.

Read Viki’s Management Article of the Year entry in Winning Ideas – a special, CMI compilation of the Top Five pieces.

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