“Women are expected to dress a certain way,” says Melinda Roylett (EMBAG2014). “They are judged on their appearance – how they look and what they wear – far more than their male counterparts. It’s just an example of the different challenges facing women and men, but it’s key and it’s visible.”
Head of Europe at payment service provider Square, Melinda has had a standout career in tech, which includes a 10-year tenure at PayPal. There she spearheaded a number of first-to-market and strategic initiatives, including the integration of Braintree payments business unit into PayPal Europe – a move that facilitated the company’s transition from a single product to a multi-product salesforce. At Square she leads a team that seeks to empower small and medium sized businesses with technology solutions to help them start, run and grow.
Management Times magazine dubbed her one of their “35 women to watch under 35” in 2014, and in 2017, she was nominated as one of the 50 Most Influential Women in U.K. Technology. She also holds an EMBA-Global (EMBAG) from London Business School (LBS).
Making it as a woman in business – and especially in a sector as male-dominated as the tech industry – is very much down to doing things your own way, she says.
“I’ve always been drawn to doing something ‘different’ and opportunities to change things. I left my job as a product manager at Lloyds TSB in London to pursue something completely new with PayPal. When I joined, the company was growing very fast, so it was an exciting time to be there with new products to bring to market and new initiatives to launch.”
The suggestion to do the EMBA-Global at LBS came from Melinda’s boss at PayPal and dovetailed with her own desire to consolidate an academic background in finance with a more nuanced understanding of international business and leadership.
“Everything about my time at the School exceeded my expectations, from the interplay between academic analysis and business focus, to the quality of the teaching, to the strength of the connections I made with incredibly talented people from every walk of life. The friends and networks I made at LBS are the strongest in my life. I still see my classmates every two months and we act as a support network to help each other out with life’s challenges.”
She has maintained close ties too with LBS faculty, whom she now invites regularly to Square offices to help her team learn. “I had amazing professors, like Richard Jolly, who give you the full benefit not only of their academic insights and perspectives but also their real-world expertise in consulting and advising many of the world’s leading business organisations. We take our teams off-site and invite LBS professors in to support our professional development and help us learn.”
Helping others – especially women – to move their career forward is something Melinda feels passionately about, so much so that during her time at PayPal she championed a number of diversity and inclusion initiatives that earned her the title of PayPal “Culture Champion” across the company.
Formally and informally she remains a mentor and sponsor of a range of people at different stages in their career. It is “incumbent on women,” she feels, to support each other, quoting Oracle’s Melissa Di Donato’s call for greater alignment and mentorship between women: “you cannot be what you cannot see.”
Melinda urges women to make a more conscious effort to break out of the pattern of self-abnegation by stepping out of their comfort zones. Taking on the jobs or projects that others deem to difficult to do, for instance, and making the effort to do them well.
“It’s about having more faith in your ability and developing the resilience to be yourself more authentically. And as women, we need to help each other do this more or things won’t change.”
Change is something that Melinda would like to see, not only in her own sector, but across the business panorama as a whole. And if there were one specific that she could change to empower women (and men) to achieve meaningful goals it would be to instigate the same parental leave regulations for all.
“I’d like there to be a six-month statutory break for women and men following the birth of a baby. I think we need to send out positive messages about the importance of home and work life balance. And we need to stress how men and women have equal roles and equal responsibilities both in the professional and personal spheres. To me that would be an excellent start and solid step forward.”