Ahead of International Women’s Day 2021, a number of Fletcherians shared their thoughts. Here’s what our Head Of Operations, Gillian Carlisle Collett had to say:
Please can you tell us about your achievements and any barriers you have had to overcome as a woman?
Achievements for me are dual-level – professional & personal. I feel a great sense of achievement on a professional level on how I have progressed in my career and the choices I have made along the way. I also have felt a great sense of achievement on a personal level in having and raising two well balanced (so far) children, and like many of my peers demonstrating that you can have a work life balance, and provide a good role model to your children whilst working full time. Neither of those achievements have come without barriers. My first partnership was withdrawn when news of my first pregnancy became public knowledge. I took it on the chin and did not make a fuss, I just worked harder to prove myself again. Retrospect is a wonderful thing and I would have approached this very differently as the older and wiser woman I now am, who also feels hugely supported by other females. I really do think that historically one of the barriers was other women as everyone felt they had so much to prove. Thankfully I really believe there has been a fundamental shift and women now support women and the majority of men support their female colleagues. The other huge barrier was none working mothers who disapproved of me as a working mother. I was shunned in the playground. Thankfully a change in schools saw a change in mothers and whilst many of them were also none-working, these wonderful women offered support, not derision and changed my life – and they are all still dear friends.
Can you tell us about a time you have challenged sexism/misogyny in the workplace (or outside it)?
I can think of many. In particular, I remember one poignant Board meeting to which I had invited along one of my female IT colleagues, I wanted to assist in raising her profile and to gain personal recognition for her in the work she was undertaking that was fundamentally changing the business. In my role I was updating the Board but following a particularly big piece of work that required a presentation I required this lady to dual present with me.
As the Board meeting started it was evident the PA was off ill, immediately the three senior male members of the Board turned to my colleague as the only other female in the room and on auto pilot said verbally “Please can you take the minutes today” none verbally stating “it is a woman’s role to take the minutes”. I halted the meeting and challenged the request and the rationale of the request.
I am pleased to state that she did not take the minutes and that the COO apologised thereafter. My colleague also expressed gratitude post meet as she openly stated she would have just done it.
Have you had the support of allies along the way/can you give us tips on how people can be good allies to women?
I have been lucky enough to have the support of a number of allies along the way – good allies to women are in my experience good allies to all that experience discrimination.
In my experience, the individuals I know listen and take time to understand other situations that people find themselves in, then utilise their own credibility to support change and find time to make their privilege work for others in an effort to create a more inclusive workplace.
Who inspires, or has inspired you?
I will apologise in advance as I know it is controversial but Margaret Thatcher was an inspiration to me, as she was elected to power when I was a small child, and I was the daughter of a man who had told me a number of things I could not be or do because I was a female. Then suddenly there was a woman running our country, his voice changed and along with it the view of many of those around me (my father’s friends). This was a lady who had worked hard for her success and proved to me (and my father) that a woman could have a family and a successful career. I know she was highly controversial but whether you agree with her policies & approach or not it cannot be denied she challenged the status quo & I for one appreciate the trail she blazed.