Olivia Bushe, Chief Executive Officer, FlowForma
23rd May 2023
This week, Olivia Bushe, Chief Executive Officer at FlowForma and WMB Diversity Ambassador talks about ‘being a female lead in a tech company’. As a mother of two, she says: “I hope I am showing women that you can have a family and also a career, that it’s not that you have to choose one or other, which I feel a lot of women still think. I have 2 daughters whom I encourage to shoot for the stars!”.
Can you tell our readers a bit about your background and your role at FlowForma.
I am CEO at FlowForma; an innovative, fun company that have built a process automation tool for businesspeople. We are headquartered in Dublin and have recently opened a new office on Park Avenue in New York City. We are just off 5th Avenue which is very exciting!
My journey started with a BSc Hons Degree in Information Management from Queen’s University, Belfast. Information Management covers business with (a little) computing, so it seemed to make sense that I started my career in tech marketing. In 2016 I joined FlowForma as CMO and then progressed to CEO. Apparently, I broke two barriers at once when I became CEO of a tech company – given that I am female and from a marketing field.
Creating a culture of diversity and inclusion is fundamental to me, and our drive to create this is just one of the many reasons that FlowForma is a truly great place to work.
As a WMB Diversity Ambassador, you are a role model for others. How do you think you can make a difference in this regard?
I hope my journey to the role of CEO, and my journey with FlowForma, can show others that you should always explore the possibilities and that nothing is impossible.
For me, resilience, and the drive to succeed, has been key.
I simply want to be the best version of myself and enjoy what I do. Part of that enjoyment for me is creating a culture that makes people want to come to work in the morning, involving them in a journey that excites them and that they enjoy being a part off.
Recently, we have introduced a number of policies at FlowForma that I am significantly proud about. For example, we introduced wellness leave, menopause leave, andropause leave, and more. I’m delighted that our staff have rated FlowForma a nine out of ten for inclusivity and diversity in our most recent employee survey.
We value our employees and listen to their suggestions, so that everyone feels welcome and comfortable in the FlowForma Family.
With companies introducing new policies that encompass everyone, I would hope more women are encouraged to join the tech sector resulting in a better gender balance. Within FlowForma 50% of our Senior Leadership Team is female.
Do you think as women that ‘we throw back down the ladder’?
As a woman leading a software business, I encourage other females to step forward into leadership positions within this sector. Further,
I hope I am showing women that you can have a family and also a career, that it’s not that you have to choose one or other, which I feel a lot of women still think. I have 2 daughters whom I encourage to shoot for the stars!
Unfortunately, I haven’t had many women in senior roles above me as I have progressed through my career but I support and encourage other females throughout the tech sector and beyond.
What are your thoughts on the four-day workweek pilot?
One of our newer policies is a four-day workweek for one calendar month in the year resulting from employee feedback. This can be taken by employees on any month of their choosing, and it’s working well for us and just gives that extra flexibility to those who need it.
What is the greatest opportunity in your business sector today?
Since Covid people work differently. Location is not a prohibitor, business models have changed, and the ‘hybrid’ approach is working well which is welcomed by a high percentage of organisations. However for this ‘hybrid’ approach to work processes must be digitised. This is where the FlowForma tool comes in – our process automation tool can help you do more with less. We have made automation affordable to the masses rather than only enterprise companies being able to afford a powerful automation tool. In today’s climate reducing costs and improving your company’s resilience and agility is key for survival and FlowForma’s tool empowers you as a business owner to do this.
And the biggest challenge facing your sector?
Keeping abreast of new technologies such as AI, RPA, Machine Learning etc. Technology moves fast and it’s important to be aware of all the moving pieces. This means you need to be a market lead companies always looking outwards.
Recruiting the skills need is also currently a challenge – this is why I think we need to encourage a more diverse workforce in tech to provide the skills required.
Do you think your gender defines you?
I don’t feel it defines me; I am comfortable being a female lead in a tech company. Sometimes I do wish there was more pink at conferences though!
When I first accepted the CEO role, I will admit I did feel pressure to run FlowForma as my male counterparts would, but I feel this was more due to having no female role models I could ask for advice, rather than to do with gender.
However, after 4 years in the CEO role I no longer feel the need to do this. I feel we have built something quite unique at FlowForma and that this is due to the gender balance we have here and the emotional intelligence that comes with that.
The Lioness doesn’t do what the Lion does after all! We each have our own part to play.
What DE&I Initiatives are in place at FlowForma?
At FlowForma, as mentioned, we place great importance on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiatives. Employee wellbeing is at the forefront of FlowForma. We have several inclusive benefits and policies such as: Blended working policy, Parent Care/Family Care leave, Paid wellness leave for mental health, physical health, menopause, menstrual symptoms. Paid Maternity and Paternity leave policies. I believe FlowForma to be leading in some of these policies. We strive to keep our employees happy and have annual surveys to gauge perceptions regarding DEI within FlowForma. 86% score (2023) for FlowForma’s DE&I initiatives.
What are the main challenges facing women when it comes to career advancement?
I feel like it’s a lack of everyday role models. What I mean by that is people we interact with every day.
Unfortunately, despite modest progress, there is still a real gender imbalance in the tech sector. Quite frequently I find myself being the only female in the room which is startling in 2023! This often creates another problem in that I’m more open to higher rates of bias and more likely to have my judgement questioned. We need more female investors and leaders in tech. Fortunately, at FlowForma 50% of our SLT team is female, and we continue to ensure that we foster inclusion across all departments of the organisation and give females the same opportunities to advance their careers as their male counterparts. A recent McKinsey report cited that only 1 in 4 C-Suite leaders is a woman, and only 1 in 20 is a woman of colour.
The worrying thing is that ambitious women are not afraid to leave positions if they feel that they have hit a ceiling and there is nowhere to progress. The result is losing great talent which no company can afford.
Up Close and Personal
If you were a superhero, who would you be?
Definitely one that can fly – could I chose a Disney Princess instead? Maybe Mulan – love that I can watch this movie with my daughters, and it sets an example that we set our own path in life and it’s OK to break the mould!
An unforgettable moment?
Meeting Taylor Swift. She’s really tall!
Who has influenced you the most?
My parents and 4 sisters!
Strongest personality trait?
Your Achilles’ heel?
Don’t like to be wrong!