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International Women’s Day: gender doesn’t define potential

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As we approach International Women’s Day, I’ve been reminiscing about my own professional journey. I grew up in a council estate which had a dreadful reputation. My parents were divorced and money was tight, but I never lacked love or support as a child. Nevertheless, from a young age, I made it my intention to work hard for everything that mattered to me.

I am a feminist. I believe in equality of the sexes, though I am not a banner-waving, chain-myself-to-the-fence sort of person. I believe we can make changes for ourselves, for our female peers and for the women who follow in our footsteps.

Age and gender don’t matter if you have the skills

A career-defining moment came at 18, when I applied for internal promotion. I happened to read what one of the interview panel had written about me, namely that I was only a ‘young girl, just being interviewed for experience’ – something you’d hope not to see today. Against the obvious odds, however, I got that promotion (to a management role) and proved to the panel that age and gender didn’t matter; I had the skills and capabilities to do the role.

Naturally, I have worked in some very male environments, where being a woman was challenging. I, like so many others out there, could write a book on things that I have seen, heard and experienced. That said, gender doesn’t determine ignorance or nastiness. I found that some of the biggest issues I encountered were with female managers – those who were threatened by a younger, more ambitious woman coming up through the ranks. This caused problems and hassle, but my pure determination ensured I didn’t get battered or bruised.

And actually, it was a male manager who recognised my potential and encouraged me to go to college and university. He didn’t care about my gender; he only saw that I could go further professionally, and I have an awful lot to thank him for as a result. It didn’t matter that I had a young family and a husband with renal failure; he inspired me to dream and achieve.  All the hard work paid off and one of the proudest moments of my life was my graduation day – the day that the ‘council house girl’ realised her dream.

Inspiring women

This blog is not all about me (although I could talk forever). I want to get across the message that we are all responsible for our own destiny and I am proud that, as a woman, I can be a real role model to others. I used to laugh when people said this to me, but having worked with, trained and mentored lots of strong women, I take great pride in watching them achieve their own goals and aspirations.

Of course, I too have also been inspired by strong women and one I would particularly like to mention is Shonagh Dillon, CEO of Aurora New Dawn, a registered charity giving safety, support, advocacy and empowerment to survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence.  She too was determined to achieve. Shonagh is currently studying for a doctorate while working full-time with a young family. She receives a lot of personal abuse because she fights for what she believes in, but she doesn’t let it get her down. Instead, it makes her more determined to succeed in everything that she sets her mind to.

We live in a frustrating world where inexplicably, there still remains gender inequality. However, we can forge women’s advancement by what we do, through mentoring others, and by working in companies that actively encourage progressive women, champion an equal culture and provide opportunities for all – no matter who you are.

And on a personal note, I discovered what’s most important is to do what is right for you, to do what you believe in, and you will be able to achieve your dream and have future success.

If this blog has struck a chord or you’d like to discover more, then please get in touch.