Some of the challenges of being a woman in business
I’m a female director in a male dominated industry. I started my life as the youngest of 8 in a Catholic immigrant family. Statistically this shouldn’t have bode well for my future. On top of this I had a very strict upbringing with limited parties, sleepovers, makeup and boyfriends. Despite the Victorian rulebook I had an incredibly happy childhood. Absolutely no regrets.
I trained as a surveyor, a male dominated industry. Only 10% of our course and graduate intake was female.
The experts continually tell us that we are stereotyped from an early age, girls like dolls, playing mummy and cooking. Boys like building and being noisy. I liked all those things and my carrier has reflected all of these elements.
I’ve always been challenged by International Women’s Day. The more women have to stand apart from men the more we are creating a difference. I believe we should all be allowed to be who and what we want to be without labels. Hollywood, BBC, Parliament are all over the press raising the question of sexual, race, religious equality and opportunity. Hospitality is not exempt from the challenges raised in these wider organisations.
My views have changed over the years as I see other businesses and organisations not making the same choices our business makes.
My business recruits and pays on merit not on gender, religion or race. We have always been mindful of this. But we all have an obligation to speak out when things aren’t fair.
As a female this has been the hardest part of my job. One of the challenges I’ve come across is men are often listened to more than women. I know there are some occasions when I need Victor to communicate a message as I know the recipient won’t accept it from me or from one of my senior female team. Consequently I’ve found myself being harder than if I’d been a male counterpart. This has made me frustrated but more often sad. Being the youngest of 8 I’ve always had the courage to speak my mind. Perhaps being part of such a large pack made it necessary to have to shout louder to be heard. Nature or nurture? But regardless of each of our personal journeys, I believe being truthful and saying what you know is the truth and is fair for all, is fundamental. Etiquette I feel can prevent some people to speak out or speak their mind. The fear of offending or upsetting stops voices. This isn’t healthy of good for men or women.
The path of a surveyor may not have given me the family life that I love. I used to be annoyed that my lack of makeup or grey hair was commented on while my male counterparts were bald and fat and nobody cared. While in 2018 I said “I now love going to the hairdresser and spend a fortune in Space NK so my views have changed on this too!” In 20019 I’ve grown strong on this point too and am proud to wear my natural grey hair. I feel good and it’s saving me a small fortune too. Maybe I had to be almost 50 to get away with it. As a cook and restaurateur I’ve followed my heart, conscience and stomach and thankfully I have a very happy and independent life. We are all faced with challenges and therefore we all have choices to make. We need to be strong, truthful and make the choices that are best for us.
Sometimes, particularly as a woman, that can mean changing direction or walking away.
Whatever path you choose, hold respect and fairness at the heart and choose and speak with no regrets.
International Women’s Day is important. But it’s important for us as women to bring attention to all inequalities for all genders and all areas of unbalance. As the mothers of our nations it’s our responsibility to speak the truth for all our daughters and sons. No favourites.
In January I had a major operation. Full hysterectomy. The medical advice was that I was to be off work for three months. As a company director we pay heavily to have Key MAN Insurance and critical illness cover. While I can see now that I wasn’t critically ill I wonder if I’d taken out Key WOMAN Insurance my operation would have been covered? Films like the Basis of Sex which has just hit the cinemas does make you realise how hard progress has been for women.
Let’s stand up and be counted every day with fairness and truth in mind not just on International Women’s Day.