Christie Hunter Arscott (Bermuda & Keble/Lincoln 2007) currently works as an independent consultant on issues of gender, diversity and millennial integration into the workforce. She completed a B.A. in Political Science at Brown University and an M.St. in Women’s Studies and an M.Sc. in Comparative Social Policy at the University of Oxford. Christie previously worked as a Human Capital Consultant with Deloitte Consulting, helping to lead their National Diversity and Inclusion Service Offering. She is currently located in Boston and in her free time she enjoys traveling, spending time with her husband, Dr. Ramon Arscott (Jamaica & Lincoln 2005) and her English cocker spaniel (‘Junior’) and visiting her homes, Bermuda and Jamaica.

Rhodes Project: You were one of the first Rhodes scholars to complete the M.St. in Women’s Studies at Oxford. What was your experience like?

Christie Hunter Arscott: The program was only 12 years old when I started, and while I enjoyed the experience, I think there’s an opportunity for more investment. For example, there wasn’t a women’ studies department, therefore every professor who taught in the program was a core faculty member of another department. Although there were great professors, they were often juggling multiple responsibilities across departments. Similarly, although there are benefits associated with an interdisciplinary program, a dedicated faculty has its benefits as well.

If the university is serious about having a world class women’s studies program, they should consider investing in resources for academics to make that the primary focus of their research and teaching. At the time, there also wasn’t the option to continue our studies and complete a DPhil in Women’s Studies. It would be exciting to see the appetite for that kind of program. Many of my fellow classmates would have been interested in continuing their studies at Oxford if such a track had existed.

Rhodes Project: What does your current work involve? What does a typical day look like for you?

Christie Hunter Arscott: Every day is different! It’s exciting because I’ve been able to create a career out of my passion for advancing women and minorities in the workforce and addressing challenges related to intergenerational management.

The best thing is that I’ve been able to create a portfolio career where I am doing speaking, writing, research, advisory work and coaching. No day is the same; I could be planning a speaking engagement or writing an article or travelling to do advisory work with clients. The dynamic nature of my work keeps me really engaged, because there’s multiple ways to tackle the same issue. It’s interesting to have such a multifaceted approach to women’s issues – coaching individuals, advising organisations and writing pieces for public consumption.

Rhodes Project: You recently wrote a blog post for the World Economic Forum on women in boardrooms. How do you react to legislation about gendered boardroom quotas in countries like Germany?

Christie Hunter Arscott: I think it’s important to remember they are multiple ways to tackle the same issue. I do have some concerns about policies like quotas. There is a risk to individual psychology that then can affect performance. For instance, there is a risk that women or minorities could feel inadequate, undeserving and like the ‘outgroup’ because of the quota. There are two layers: one is the individual’s self-confidence and feeling of deservedness, which often affects their performance, and the other is their peers’s perception of their capacity to contribute. I do believe that we need to shake up the traditional board model, but the quota approach does leave room for inherent bias and potentially, unintended negative consequences. I believe creating ‘emerging leader’ roles on boards can help address some of the same issues, without the same risks. With that being said, each country and/or organization needs to decide what models fit their culture and needs. This will vary dependent upon many factors within each context.

Rhodes Project: What was it like to establish your own consulting practice? What was involved in that process?

Christie Hunter Arscott: I left Deloitte because I decided I wanted to specialise exclusively on projects that focused on diversity and inclusion, including women and millennials. Following my passion for researching, writing and consulting on the subject (and doing that work exclusively) was my impetus for leaving Deloitte but I didn’t think initially that I wanted to start my own business.

My business started quite organically. Companies and individuals approached me about consulting, research and writing projects and speaking engagements and my business was born without me purposefully going out to attract clients. At first I didn’t put much effort into business development because I had such a robust pipeline of work – I didn’t have an email, a website or a business card. Now I’m thinking more intentionally about growth and how I want to contribute to more public debate on the issues.

Rhodes Project: What does it mean to you to pursue a more unconventional path?

Christie Hunter Arscott: It’s funny – when I was awarded the Rhodes scholarship I was featured in a newspaper article with an opening line that read, “While most Rhodes scholars go to Oxford to study medicine or law, Christie’s going to study women’s studies”. Even from the outset, I felt a kind of juxtaposition about what “conventional” Rhodes scholars do and what my plans were. When I left Oxford to join Deloitte, there was also appeared to be a perception that doing corporate work was “selling out”. I think we should have a broader perspective on what impact means and how people can pursue their passions in a very multi-sectoral way.

Rhodes Project: What do you envision your life looking like in 10 years, both professionally and personally?

Christie Hunter Arscott: I’m really passionate about what I’m doing right now and I would like to deepen my work in that area. I’m becoming increasingly interested in working with individual women and I’d like to build more of a coaching practice. It’s exciting to go beyond the organizational level and inspire change at the individual level.

I’ve also always been interested in policy and politics, which is why I studied family-friendly employment policies in my second degree (M.Sc. in Comparative Social Policy). I am interested in advising countries on policy solutions to support women and girls. Finally, I think the voices of millennial women are severely lacking from debates on work-life balance and bias. Millennial women are early in their careers, and I’d like to have more of a public and media presence on those issues and encourage millennial women to be part of policy debates. I’m in the early stages of what this millennial women engagement model might look like - a website, a blog, a book, a news feature, etc.

Rhodes Project: Do you feel a sense of connection to Bermuda? What social/political issues in the country are you thinking about most?

Christie Hunter Arscott: Absolutely – I feel an enormous pull home. I’m very emotionally invested in the country and I definitely identify as a Bermudian. I’m very passionate about working there, and occasionally do projects or speaking engagements in a more local setting. Race and gender issues are equally important in Bermuda, and I’d love to contribute to these discussions, while starting discussions about emerging issues such as intergenerational workforces and millennial employees.

Rhodes Project: What books have been particularly transformative for you?

Christie Hunter Arscott: When I was doing the M.St. in Women’s Studies, I read a Harvard Business Publishing book called Through The Labyrinth. It really stuck with me because it talked about how the glass ceiling doesn’t exist anymore. It’s more like a labyrinth, where women drop off at different stages of their careers. It is a different way of talking about the “leaky pipeline” metaphor. It showed me that addressing women’s lack of advancement isn’t just about high-level solutions for women on the cusp of senior management. It has to start much earlier than that and identify obstacles early in women’s careers.

Rhodes Project: Who have been your most formative role models and mentors?

Christie Hunter Arscott: My parents have been enormous role models. My father has always been dedicated to the leadership and development of young Bermudians within the corporate world. This influenced my career, which is focused on managing and developing people within organizations. My mother has always been an incredibly strong role model and feminist. She has been and continues to be very dedicated to the advancement of women. Both she and my father managed to have very successful and meaningful careers, give back to the community and have a family. It also speaks volumes that both their children – my sister and I – went on to study women’s studies at varying stages in our education. My sister and I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive family – they encouraged and celebrated intellectual curiosity and acts of integrity (rather than traditional accolades). These priorities have truly set the tone for how I lead my life, both professionally and personally.

Rhodes Project: How has your understanding of feminism and women’s issues evolved throughout your life?

Christie Hunter Arscott: When I was younger, the word seemed very divisive. When I was at Brown University it was often discussions about “lipstick feminism” – whether women could fit a traditionally feminine mold and still be a feminist, etc. There were often debates about what it means to be a woman, and I think my understanding of feminism has now progressed to understand and appreciate that everyone’s gender expression is different and that those definitions are fluid. Each woman should be able to fight her own fight on her own terms. Each individual and context is different, what is empowering to one woman may feel stifling to another. Definitions of feminism have to be fluid in order to be inclusive.

Rhodes Project: What do you think some of the priorities should be for the American feminist movement going forward? What issues or big questions do you think need to be addressed?

Christie Hunter Arscott: Where do I start! For one thing, I think women’s movements need to be much more inclusive. Many firms have specific women’s organisations but they often don’t include men. I often see discussions about women’s issues happening in a very exclusive way – and I don’t think it’s the right approach. The more we can talk about the intersection of gender, race, class, sexual orientation and disability (to name a few!), the better. There’s been some exciting progress lately in terms of incorporating men as allies, such as the United Nations programme HeforShe.

I also think it’s important to further address layers of bias. We often think cases of discrimination or prejudice in hiring and firing are very overt, but bias can manifest over time in more discreet ways. This requires us to examine our own assumptions – for example, thinking of careers like “farmer” or “surgeon” and examining who first comes to mind. When we understand our own bias, we can hopefully transform how we approach equity issues in our day-to-day lives.

These are just a few of the many challenges facing us today -- challenges I am ready and excited to take on. Stay tuned!

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