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A gender equal world – are we there yet?

In celebration of International Women’s Day 2020 on 8 March, WRENmedia’s female staff members share their experiences of gender (in)equality in the workplace, and advice for their younger selves.

(L-R) Susanna, Olivia, Rachel and Sophie speak on the role models who have supported them in their careers

How do you feel things have changed for women in the workplace over the years you have been working?

Susanna: “I’ve been very fortunate to be involved with WRENmedia for most of my working life. I have always worked with strong women who were great role models. I was also given great support and opportunities from men and women I worked with when I was younger and I try to pass that on now. Very importantly, I was really fortunate to have family to help with looking after my boys when they were younger, as good childcare is a really challenging aspect of being a working mum, particularly if the children are unwell or if your job involves travelling overseas. I think flexibility at work, being able to work from home more now, and the development of shared paternity leave are all positive developments for women in the workplace.”

Rachel: “I am lucky to have had a mother who had a motivating career and who taught me that women could do anything – be anyone a man could be or do anything a man could do – so I have always believed that women should be treated the same. I have also been lucky to have worked for companies where men and women were treated equally.”

Sophie: “I have worked in various industries since taking up part-time hospitality work when I was at school. Throughout my career, there has always been a strong female presence at each of the companies I have worked for, and so in this respect, I have not noticed a significant change over time. WRENmedia is the first company I have worked for where the majority of staff – and the director – are women. One of the things I enjoy about working in this small, mostly female team, is that the environment is really supportive and trusting, and I have not necessarily found this before.”

Olivia: “Throughout my working life I haven’t actually noticed a change, but this is probably because I have been privileged to work for organisations where my gender has never been a barrier and I have been treated as an equal. While most of my career has been spent working for organisations either headed by women, or with women at the highest levels of leadership, I have also been fortunate to have had a Dad who taught me that I could do anything. There was no question that I would start working on the family farm as soon as I was old enough to drive a tractor!”

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Susanna: “My advice would be to not worry so much about situations, and particularly things you can’t change as it is such a waste of energy and not very constructive. If everything always went perfectly or smoothly, then we would not learn from the experience. It is hard when things don’t go right but the important thing is to pick yourself up and move forwards and learn from the experience. With age, you gain experience and wisdom (hopefully!) and this does make a big difference to how you approach life and to perhaps developing a ‘thicker’ skin to be more resilient to life’s knocks and stresses. But of course, much of that comes with experience and confidence, which you don’t have when you are younger!”

Rachel: “I would tell myself to slow down, don’t rush to get older, to worry less (as this doesn’t change anything and just makes you lose sleep!), and to not be afraid to admit if I don’t know something. When I was younger, I would have not asked as many questions and kept quiet, now I ask the questions and learn something new all the time.”

Olivia: “When you are younger there is a lot of pressure to ‘pass exams’ and elements of the education system reinforce the idea that if you don’t get top marks, your life chances will be limited. The UK primary schools currently state that missing school for even a day can mean that a child is less likely to achieve good grades, which can have a damaging effect on their life chances. This is nonsense. I would tell my younger self not to worry so much about exams, and that gaining life experience is just as (if not more) important than what you learn at school.”

Sophie: “Don’t panic – it will all work out, and things tend to happen for a reason (yoga and meditation definitely help me deal better with stressful circumstances!). I always worried when I was younger that by choosing to study science instead of English literature, which had been my preference at school, that I had started down the wrong path and would end up doing something that I wasn’t passionate about. But, ultimately, the choices I made provided me with opportunities and experiences that led me to a job that I really love, and which allows me to combine my interests in English and science.”

Olivia Frost

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