Gráinne Bryan, Senior Managing Director, FTI Consulting

11th April 2023

This week Gráinne Bryan, Senior Managing Director, FTI Consulting and WMB Diversity Ambassador tells us how she can help, through her passion and position, break down and disprove common biases against women, particularly mothers, faced in the workplace.

Can you tell our readers a bit about your background and your role at FTI Consulting.

I’ve worked in the legal industry in Ireland for more than two decades, leading teams during complex disputes, investigations, e-discovery and data-related matters. This background has led me to my current role as the Ireland country leader for FTI Consulting’s Technology segment, which I’m proud of for many reasons — not least of which is that I’m the first woman within our segment to be named as country lead.

Alongside our team of experts, I help law firms and corporate clients effectively leverage technology to respond to regulatory inquiries, fulfil discovery obligations, uncover evidence in internal investigations, implement best practices, harness insights from data, respond to data breaches and more. Our work is always evolving, and I love innovating and advising clients at the intersection of legal and technology issues.

As a WMB Diversity Ambassador, you are a role model for others. How do you think you can make a difference in this regard?

It’s an honour for me to be in such a position where I can help mentor and nurture future leaders. I believe that we must always be pushing forward for more action to ensure equity and upward mobility for women and people from other under-represented groups, especially in industries that have traditionally lacked diversity.

In addition to using this platform and my role within FTI Consulting to advocate for diversity, inclusion and belonging, I aim to make an impact in several specific ways. First is by helping to break down and disprove common biases against women, particularly mothers, faced in the workplace.

I’m vocal about the fact that women can have careers and families at the same time, and that success can be defined in many different ways.

Business leaders must build a company culture wherein women earn equal pay, equal opportunity and are considered for promotion or high value work, regardless of their family status. This dovetails with talent retention, which is another key issue that we recognise within FTI Consulting, and which I work to address here and among the organisations in my network.

When women feel included, valued and supported, they are more likely to stay engaged in and committed to their role.

What are your thoughts on the four-day workweek pilot?

The past three years have proven that productive, quality work can continue despite extensive disruption. I think effective working can take place within many different settings and frameworks. The key — whether for a four-day workweek, job sharing, remote work or some other “unconventional” format — is to provide employees with the support they need to do their best work. That may look different from person-to-person. So, ultimately,

piloting any change to typical work arrangements will require strong leaders who can offer the guidance and tools each individual needs to succeed.

What is the greatest opportunity in your business sector today?

Our organisation is growing rapidly, so there’s an opportunity for tremendous career growth for our employees and candidates. More broadly, I think the rapid advancement of technology we’re seeing around the world is creating an opportunity for people to differentiate their skill sets. So in the legal field, for example, there’s an opportunity for lawyers and consultants early in their careers to stand out by developing a strong technical acumen and finding areas of specialisation that will be relevant as technology evolves.

And the biggest challenge facing your sector?

The complex regulatory landscape and intensifying enforcement is a major challenge for our clients today. Many are dealing with an increase in disputes and investigations or greater scrutiny over their governance practices. This, combined with the explosive growth in the volume of data and the variety of information sources that organisations must manage, is creating a lot of concern and uncertainty for business leaders and legal professionals.

Do you think your gender defines you?

To some extent, yes, but I say that in the same breath as acknowledging that this is different for everyone. For me, I’m proud of what I’ve achieved as a woman in my industry. Also, I’m a mum. So, being a woman is very much a part of my identity. That said, my gender doesn’t define how I conduct myself at work or the standards that I set for my team. So,

from a day-to-day perspective, I’m aware of my role as a female leader, but my approach has more to do with my leadership philosophy than anything else.

Investing in ‘you’ builds confidence and self-esteem – Do you agree?

Absolutely. Sadly, it’s common for people to struggle with staying self-assured, especially in the workplace. I have had my own challenges with this over the years, even though I’ve had a very fruitful and successful career to date. It’s important for everyone to invest in themselves, especially people who are experiencing self-doubt. By betting on your own success through specific “investments” like taking trainings, earning certifications, putting yourself forward for compelling projects, etc., you can grow as an individual and set yourself up for incremental “wins” that will build experience and confidence.

It’s also important to remember that you should also invest in yourself through self care, whatever that means to you. We’re our best when we have balance and by taking time for interests and hobbies outside of work, we become more productive, dynamic and inspired.

While overall progress in Ireland is positive, an alarming 15% (globally 9%) of Irish businesses currently have no women in senior management roles. (Source: Grant Thornton).  What are the main challenges facing women when it comes to career advancement?

Women have several uphill battles to fight. Inherent bias is one.

It’s often assumed that women who are mothers will not be as available or dedicated to their work, and as a result, they may be overlooked for a promotion, a project or a new role. Another false assumption is that women aren’t as assertive or driven as men, and so a woman may be overlooked for a senior position simply because she didn’t speak as loudly or as much as a male counterpart. On the surface, these may seem like simple issues to correct, but the unconscious biases underlying them can be hard to undo.

Can you provide a possible solution to one of these challenges?

Open dialogue and bias training are important.

Senior leaders must be taught how to recognise their own biases and then have meaningful conversations with their colleagues, mentors, mentees and industry experts to learn how to overwrite them.

There are also checks in balances that can be put in place within organisations to promote and benchmark for equity in work assignment, hiring, retention, compensation, promotion, etc.

In a recent survey, 87 percent of women said they were feeling more burnt-out at work since the pandemic. (Source: Accenture Ireland).  Is this something you have observed?

The pandemic took a toll on people in so many ways, and in many ways, the world is still grappling with a great deal of uncertainty and worry. It’s not surprising that so many people — men and women — are feeling burnt out. In some ways, remote working has alleviated the strain on some people, but for others it has also created a dilemma of living at work. Also, women typically bear the majority of household responsibilities, so when families were homebound, there were automatically more domestic demands on women, combined with the responsibilities of work. It’s going to take some time for society to recover from all of those dynamics. As we do,

I hope we see a shift of employers giving their people more support, and also a levelling out of the unrealistic expectations society has traditionally placed on women.

Gráinne – Up Close and Personal

If you were a superhero, who would you be?

Wonder Woman, cheesy right but I remember playing ‘Wonder Woman’ in the school yard many moons ago, I was six maybe seven years of age, little did I know that I would grow to realise all women are in fact Wonder Women in their own way.

An unforgettable moment? 

The moment you become a mother will always be a stand out memory for me, nothing can prepare you for that moment and the impact it has on you for the rest of your life. It made me see my own mother in a completely different light.

Who has influenced you the most?

Every woman that has helped me along the way and there are many.  On reflection, I now realise without them, I would not be here and without their influence and teachings directly or indirectly.  Another reason why I take the position I am blessed to be in today quite seriously is that I know others look to me now in the same way and therefore the importance of being a role model is not lost on me.

Strongest personality trait?

Determination – finding a way where there may not already be one.

Your Achilles’ heel? 

My emotions, I am passionate about all I do and sometimes that emotion comes to light in different ways, sometimes it takes me by surprise or is ill timed but always from the heart.