International Women’s Day – Women in business Q&A

On International Women’s Day (IWD) we asked some of our women colleagues a few questions around IWD and gender equality. The answers led to some reflection and sound advice.

With thanks to Helen Tarbet, Ariadna Peretz, Hannah Ratcliffe, Stephanie Watson and Kerrie Palmer for taking part

What does International Women’s day mean to you?

Stephanie: It’s a celebration of how far we have come in empowering women. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to celebrate our everyday female friendships and enjoy the power and possibility offered through our relationships with the women around us.

Hannah:  Every day should be International Women’s Day. It’s important to recognise efforts previous generations have made for women’s rights to be where they are now and where they will hopefully be in the future

Ariadna: It’s a reminder that the fight for gender equality and equity is far from over. 

What woman has positively impacted you in your career? What’s one lesson she taught you?

Kerrie: Mrs Walker, my primary school teacher – who on leaving primary school told my parents, “Kerrie will never amount to much but will always be good with her hands!” The one lesson I took from this is not to let others tell you how far you can go in life. (I spent the next 10 years proving her wrong!)

Stephanie: I have a number of friends who are challenging the more ‘traditional’ roles that women have played, particularly looking to bring up a family alongside their careers. I really respect that.

Helen: My grandmother, Maria. She emigrated from a small Greek fishing village to South Wales in the 1960s with no money, no education and no English, trying to make a better life for herself and her family. Against all the odds, she built a life here in the UK. She taught me the value of perseverance.

What advice do you have for women starting out in business careers?

Stephanie: Think about what you can bring to your job that other colleagues may not be able to. Don’t think about it in terms of gender differences necessarily, but what can diversity bring to the workplace. Which experiences have you had that can give insight and add value to your job? Some of these may well be because you are a woman but don’t let this be the sole focus and your defining feature. 

Helen: Have confidence in yourself. You deserve a seat at the table. Don’t be afraid to speak up and give your opinion. When I was starting out, I often stayed silent in meetings because I thought I had nothing of value to add whilst my male colleagues were a lot more confident and less afraid of asking ‘stupid’ questions. The chances are that your ideas are valid, but no one will know if they stay in your head. So speak up.

Hannah: Don’t be intimated. Your opinion is important no matter your level, everyone has to start somewhere.

Kerrie: Be confident, resist the need to “fit in”, stay true to who you are and always retain your humanity. You don’t need to always wear black either!

How can women in senior positions in the City encourage more women to consider City careers?

Stephanie: We need to support each other in every success! If one of your female colleagues is excelling, it’s so important to be her biggest fan. When we are outnumbered, the power of the collective can go a long way in building momentum. Confidence is everything.

Helen: From the outside, the City can seem very exclusive and even intimidating. That was certainly my perception when I first started. As I progressed, though, I realised that the City is actually a lot more diverse and welcoming than I’d first assumed. The City is the engine of the UK economy so it’s vital that we demystify it and make it more accessible to people from all backgrounds by offering more mentoring, advice and career support.

Ariadna: The Queen Bee syndrome is dying. When there were few women in the City and women weren’t considered leadership material, there were very few opportunities for career advancement. This meant the women who wanted to reach the top fought against other women with an ‘each woman for herself’ attitude. Today there are more women in the City and women are increasingly accepted as capable leaders. As such, the competition between women is fading. Remember: life is not a zero-sum game — we are stronger when we work together.

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