International Women's Day: Wai-Fung Thompson

To celebrate International Women’s Day at Verisk—and to showcase Verisk as a leading data analytics company with diverse leadership—Verisk is highlighting its women leaders through a series of Q&A blog posts focusing on this year’s theme, #BalanceforBetter.

We spoke with Wai-Fung Thompson, executive vice president, human resources at Wood Mackenzie, a Verisk business. Wood Mackenzie, a global leader in data analytics and commercial intelligence for the energy, chemicals, metals and mining, and power and renewables industries. The company, provides objective analysis and advice on assets, companies, and markets, empowering clients to make better strategic decisions.

How will you help forge a more gender-balanced world?

Gender balance is really important to me, both personally and professionally. I have two children who will soon embark on their first-time careers. My wish is for them to enjoy a balanced and bright future with equality of opportunity as demonstrated by tangible activities of companies such as Wood Mackenzie and Verisk. My commitment is to enable our business to address two issues: attract and retain more women in senior roles and develop our high-performing women in their early careers.

What do you believe are the major areas of opportunity for gender parity in the workplace?

There’s a lot we can do! Let me take just three opportunities that arise at the start, middle, and end of the employee life cycle. First, when hiring new talent, achieve a balanced candidate pool where the market allows. It’s about ensuring we have the best choices; from there, we always hire the best candidate for the role. Second, once our talent is onboard, let’s help our folks reach their full potential. We know that coaching and mentoring play an important part. This is well established in the workplace. Sponsorship can also help. A coach talks to you, a mentor talks with you, and a sponsor talks about you. A sponsor is a senior leader who uses strong influence to offer visibility and helps remove barriers by actively championing and advocating for you in many settings that you wouldn’t normally be exposed to in your daily work. And third, when folks decide to leave our business, we need to take the time to find out why and do so in an environment that encourages our people to share their experiences with candor. From a gender-parity perspective, what matters is surfacing the subtleties—the unconscious behaviors or nonverbal cues that, if left unaddressed, will perpetuate the problem.

How will you forge positive visibility for women?

I think this is a collective activity, and it starts with leadership. Creating awareness on gender parity has many dimensions. Whether that’s the gender pay gap, the number of men and women who are promoted, balanced debate in teams where all opinions are heard, and hiring the best people—all of this and more is most effective when we lead by example. As a people leader, I’m committed to creating awareness in everyday work, so that it’s not "one big thing" but collective activities where we consciously act with inclusion.

If you could give one piece of advice to the next generation of women leaders, what would it be?

"Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right." For me, this is about recognizing our self-limiting beliefs and having the courage to do something about them. I engage with a couple of trusted advisors—people who have my back, will call me out, and have wisdom to share.

What is your greatest accomplishment, and why? 

If I can call my children an "accomplishment," then it’s my kids all the way! They’re an extension of my values and behaviors applied in a way that works for them. They have the confidence to know what they do well effortlessly and the courage to seek advice for the things they’re unsure of. Words cannot express how super-proud I am of them.

What are you doing daily to ensure your continued growth and development as a leader?

I see my work as my classroom. In my world, work and learning are not competing priorities—they’re very much combined. My growth as a leader centers on how I can add value. Over the years, I’ve landed on these three things: be a problem solver, continually learn and improve, and appreciate that relationships are everything. Mostly, I learn from others "on the job"—whether that’s how my team has navigated a difficult problem, how others innovate, how leaders inspire and motivate folks who aren’t on their own teams, or how our folks support each other through transformational change.

Wai-Fung Thompson

Wai-Fung Thompson, executive vice president, human resources at Wood Mackenzie.