Katia Santis
Chief Legal Officer and Company Secretary, Bank of Cyprus Group

‘My aim is to improve the Legal Department’s efficiency, reduce costs, improve workflows, stay current, and to demonstrate added value and become a business partner and a trusted advisor of Management’

What are some patterns you have noticed over the years about women at work, and things they could be doing better to advance their careers?
“Many women at work are also mothers at home. Being a full-time working mother can lead to feelings of guilt and stress because of the struggle to maintain a work-life balance. Career woman or career mum is often the dilemma. In truth, it does not have to be the one or the other. The key is to get organised and find the right balance between profession and motherhood. Women are multitaskers and flexible by nature and can find the mechanisms for juggling both their family and work demands in a satisfactory manner. Rather than dwell on how they are not with their children, they should think about how their role in the company is benefitting their family, for example their income may enable them to save for college or have the financial means to do more things as a family. They need to realise their potential and focus on the priorities that are in the moment, at the same time accepting that there will be good and bad days.”

Why do you think companies would benefit from having more women at the top?
“Women bring a new style of leadership, which benefits the companies they work for. Demand for social and interpersonal skills in the C-Suite is increasing in every category of the economy and becoming more important than more traditional operational abilities. Such skills come more easily to women: they are good listeners, showing empathy and attentiveness, can communicate clearly, and deal with increasingly complex work and coordination; they welcome input and are not afraid to ask questions in order to gain a better understanding; they believe in collaboration and exhibit determination, attention to detail and measured thinking. When women become leaders, they bring on a more imaginative and creative perspective. Women are often perceived as more emotional and less decisive than men, yet it is their emotional intelligence that makes them better team players and enables them to be less authoritative and more cooperative, bringing a family-like feel to their office.”

What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?
“They need to realise their potential and demonstrate their passion, enthusiasm and capability to take command of their lives, both at home and at work. Their ability to empathise and seek compromise is a powerful asset in this new service economy, which does not rely on physical strength but on social skills. There will be challenges along the way, however, they need to remember that the working landscape is changing and is no longer just a man’s game. The playing field is much more level than ever before.”

How should women support other women in their organisations?
“All people need someone who will guide them to advance their careers. Women leaders can become mentors for other women in their organisations, capitalising on their ability to understand and appreciate the challenges women face. In doing so, they should give them a voice to air their concerns, simultaneously share their own experiences and knowledge with them to help them take the right decisions and avoid making the same mistakes. Most importantly, they should be their role models, leading by example, celebrating their successes, and providing honest feedback, thus encouraging them to become better professionals and better persons.”