We recently held our Autumn term seminar, ‘Women in Industry’ featuring three women from diverse industries and backgrounds who shared their experiences and insights with our volunteers.
The purpose of the event was to inspire and motivate our female tutors, discuss some of the existing barriers for women in the workplace, and provide insights on how to overcome these barriers to success.
Our speakers included: Jan Way MBE, a seasoned social worker and specialist in adoption work who works as a research and training consultant at the Centre for Adoption; Joanna Bracey, a qualified accountant with management consulting and project management experience in a range of different industries including Tech and Energy; and Dr. Rupal Shah, a general practitioner and Associate Dean in the Health Education England Professional Development Team, where she teaches topics such as person centred care, health inequalities and bias.
During the event, we discussed how gender inequality in the workplace is still seen in many different forms including: unequal pay, barriers to promotion, pregnancy discrimination, and preferential treatment towards males (Stamarksi et al, 2015). Research also shows that women from ethnic minority groups are statistically more likely to experience lower pay and higher unemployment rates (GOV.UK, 2022).
Despite these distinct inequalities, multiple studies show that more gender balanced leadership creates organisations that are more financially successful, diverse, collaborative and with higher staff retention (Driver Consulting, 2022; McKinsey & Co, 2022; Entrepreneur, 2021; Real Leaders, 2016).
So, if we know that gender balanced leadership creates greater success for organisations, this leads us to question: why are these barriers still in place? More importantly, what can we, as women, do about this in our careers to ensure that we achieve success? What are some of the tools and practices that we can adopt?
Here are some of the key insights that were discussed during the event:
Pick a profession that you are passionate about; this ensures that you will remain dedicated and stay mentally stimulated throughout your career. This passion will give you a reason to keep going and continue progressing and reaching new levels in your profession.
Don’t be afraid to speak your mind when you notice that things aren’t working the way that they should be or when something doesn’t sit well with you! Oftentimes, you can become the change that you want to see through challenging existing structures, hierarchies and processes within an organisation or field.
When trying to progress within your career, look at the people above you and question what skills they have that you do not, and pinpoint actions that you can take to develop or enhance these skills.
Never stop learning! Each step in your career comes with a learning curve, there is no shame in owning that. Instead of worrying about what a prospective employer may think, be candid about the skills that you possess and ask them what kind of support and training they have in place to help you further develop. Interview them to ensure that they are the right organisation for you!
If work life balance is important to you, seek a boss who strives for this or become a boss who models this for your team. Protect your well-being by ensuring that you carve out time for physical exercise, mindfulness and rest.
Equally…..if work life balance is NOT a priority for you, that’s valid too! One of our speakers shared that this is not a top priority for her as she feels she has a strong support system at home that enables her to put her career first and loves her work so it doesn’t negatively impact her.
The world is constantly changing and evolving, be aware of the wider changes in your field or industry and adapt when needed. Diversify your skills to keep up to date!
Don’t worry too much about what other people think, concentrate on being the very best that you can be. Stay true to yourself throughout your career.
Each of our speakers brought unique perspectives and were truly candid in what their career journey’s have entailed so far and what they have learned along the way. It is evident that there is still so much to be done to achieve gender equality in the workplace, but there are steps that we can take to ensure greater opportunities for success to invoke positive and necessary change.