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international women’s day: the challenges facing women in work

To celebrate International Women’s Day, our Marketing Executive, James Nicholson, interviews Find’s Director, Helen Forsyth about her experiences as a woman in the workplace and her hopes for the future of gender equality.

James: Generally speaking, what has your experience been as a woman in your career and when running your own business?

Helen: “Quite honestly, since I’ve run my own business, I found that my gender has rarely been an issue. However, prior to running Find, I have been to interviews where I was asked if I’ve finished having children, or if I was going to have more children, which a man just wouldn’t be asked. I can even remember one occasion where a particularly obnoxious recruiter was on the phone to me for quite a senior job. He said ‘what will you do if you have to work late one night and at the same time, you’ve got to collect your kids, which will you prioritise?’, which is a really loaded question because they’re looking for you to say that you’ll place your job over your family. I simply responded ‘do I strike you as the kind of woman who wouldn’t create adequate child care plans for the people that she loves more than anything else?’ I didn’t get invited for another interview.

I mean, I’ve had people comment on my physical appearance. I don’t want to be too graphic about it. But I’ve had people talk about my bottom and my boobs and things like that at work. There are definitely times when I’ve felt like I’ve been treated more like an item than a person.”

James: If you could give one bit of advice to women who are thinking about starting their own business, what would you say?

Helen: “I think as a woman it can be easy to develop a sense of imposter syndrome or just being a bit fearful about breaking the status quo. When you want to do something a bit different it can definitely be scary. For me, it was hugely anxiety-inducing for the first six months or so, but eventually, you will overcome it. Keep persevering!

Find a coach or mentor. There are loads of people out there who are genuinely interested in mentoring and coaching other people and will quite often offer a small amount of their time, free of charge, as long as you can offer something in return like sharing some advice on one of your specialities.”

James: Do you feel like things are generally getting better or worse for women in business, and how?

Helen: “Before the pandemic, it was going to take another 100 years before salaries for women reached equality with men and post the pandemic they’re now predicting it’s going to be at least 120 years. So the pandemic has put equality on the backfoot and there are still so many unknown quantities. In the months ahead, I think this will extend to 150 years for them to match. That’s not my daughter. That’s not my daughter’s daughter. It’s several generations in time and when you think about it in those terms, it’s like looking at today from the future as the Victorian era, and it has been a slow pace of change, way too slow.

Generally, things are slowly getting better. Whilst it’s not what it should be, awareness and attitudes are gradually changing a little every day.”

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