Susanna Dinnage: "I keep work at work"

INSPIRING WOMEN: The boss of Discovery Networks UK & Ireland on work/life balance and why she never plays the gender card.

by Kate Bassett
Last Updated: 16 Jan 2015

Which businesswoman do you most admire and why?

Anita Roddick. She put her principles at the heart of her business.

Do you have a mentor? If so, who and why?

No, I haven’t had a mentor but I have had champions. Those people had faith in me and gave me opportunities to go on to bigger and better roles. I’m currently mentoring four people at Discovery and find it very rewarding.

What's been your biggest business setback/mistake?

Earlier in my career, assuming that a strong performance guaranteed my job was safe when it wasn’t. We all need to expect and be prepared for change – especially in media. It is important to ensure you have transferable skills and a profile outside your own company.

What are your top tips for negotiating a pay rise?

Prepare, build your case and keep it objective. Demonstrate how your role has expanded and give examples of how your performance has delivered value above and beyond expectations over a sustained period of time. A negotiation should be based on merit rather than time served.

How do you juggle the work/life balance? Any advice?

This is an on-going work in progress! I try to follow a few self-inflicted rules to stop work leaking into my personal life too much. For example, if I have something that needs to be finished, I stay late rather than take it home - where possible, I keep work at work. I read emails outside of office hours but rarely reply as it’s perpetuating the imbalance for others. Lists are vital: I write one at the end of the working day and another at the end of the evening so I can sleep well.

What's your take on boardroom quotas? 

I believe in merit and would feel very disappointed if I was appointed to a new role because of my gender rather than being the best person for the job. I do, however, feel that diversity is vital at board level to keep companies relevant and able to serve all sections of society.

What nuggets of advice would you give to young women starting out on their careers?

Do something you are passionate about and make the most of every role you have. Concentrate on over-delivering in your current job rather than focussing on the next one - your next role will probably find you. Don't be afraid to ask for help. 

As a high-flying businesswoman, have you ever faced discrimination in your industry?

Not to my knowledge – I have never played the gender card and I do not believe I’ve had it played against me. However, I have certainly faced and witnessed sexism at previous companies. It is corrosive but we are getting better at speaking out about it.

What do you look for when hiring? How do you decide on a new recruit?

Beyond the required experience, I look for engagement, enthusiasm, a genuine passion for the role and a good energy. Skills can be taught but attitude is harder to change.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Still trying to catch up with all the TV viewing on my planner from 2014!

Meet Susanna Dinnage at our Inspiring Women event on 20th November. Fellow speakers include Thomas Cook boss Harriet Green, Ann Summers CEO Jacqueline Gold, Links of London founder Annoushka Ducas and M&S style director Belinda Earl. Check out the progamme and book tickets here. We're running a 15% discount until the end of the month.

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