After 10 years in the industry, I’ve never really thought about how many women I was surrounded by, or even noticed a discrepancy between the numbers of men versus women – until recently. In November 2018 I was promoted to Associate Director, and I was overwhelmed by how excited my colleagues all were for me.
What stood out, however, was how every female in the office came up to me and said how proud they were that a woman had made it to AD in such a male-dominated industry and how inspired they were to do the same. I’d never thought about it like that! I’ve always just tried to do a good, diligent job. Of course, as part of my role, I’ve had to motivate and inspire a sales force, but I’ve never thought my gender was part of what was achieving this.
We’ve also recently taken on 12 new starters, to get to these numbers we must have interviewed nearly 90 individuals, and again I was surprised by the focus on gender when our female candidates were asking questions. One wanted to know how I reached director level in a male-dominated industry.
One was keen to find out how I’ve found recruitment from a woman’s point of view, and another said they were really pleased to meet me because, throughout the many interviews she’d been on, she’d only met men. Again, not what I was expecting but it got me thinking, should I be proud that as a woman I’ve achieved what I achieved, or should I just be proud?
I’ve never been one to believe in candidates getting a role because they fill a quota or tick a box, and I imagine that’s why I’ve never used the fact that I am female as a bargaining tool –but is that because I’m fortunate enough to work in an organisation like Oyster, where I haven’t needed to?
My direct team has 22 individuals, including me there are 12 females – so without even thinking I’ve created a gender-balanced team. Looking further than my team, we are a company of circa 60 and 42% are female (at one point we were 50/50 but naturally as people come and go this number shifts). I look at our top 10 performers and exactly 5 are male 5 are female. So maybe I’ve never had to think about the fact that I’m in a male-dominated industry because in my experience I haven’t been.
So do I think I’ve survived and progressed in the industry because I’m a strong woman? No. I think I’ve survived and progressed because I’m a strong candidate. I’ve worked extremely hard, learned lots, experienced some great highs and some difficult lows, and persevered. I’ve been supported by some exceptional leaders and colleagues; male and female. Above all, I’ve never considered the fact that being a woman could be a disadvantage, or used to further my career.
Don’t get me wrong I love the idea that I could be inspiring others to achieve success, and I feel proud to think that others look up to me. The last year has made me think about whether or not I should see myself as a female role model, and actually, if I can inspire anyone to better themselves, or achieve, then surely that can’t be a bad thing? But, if I had one piece of advice for those earlier in their career (male or female), then it would be to work hard and not compare yourselves to others because of things like gender. Instead, look to receive merit and praise for doing a good job!