Celebrating International Women's Day: Part Two

Continuing on from our International Women's Day article (8th March), we have another instalment of thoughts from people around the business on what the day means to them.

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Alan Edwards, European Regional Manager, Bristol

Talent, business and financial acumen, the ability to lead and promote collaborative and supportive behaviours – none of these are limited by gender so why do we need to recognise International Women’s Day?

 For me, the reasons are simple;

 Firstly, I am in no doubt that diversity of any kind whether it be on grounds of age, race, gender, nationality, religion, beliefs, disability, sexual orientation or even previous employer is good for teams, the individuals in the teams, and is therefore good for business; putting it simply different perspectives, personalities and thinking styles enrich our working lives and greatly facilitate innovation and the development of new ideas and approaches. Statistics have shown that the highest performing teams include women and it’s this diversity that drives creativity and ultimately success.

Secondly, despite all of this, if you look across many aspects of the world, be it political, financial, social, or economic, inequalities undoubtedly still exist and to me this means that the world is missing out on a whole lot of talent that it badly needs.

Of course, International Women’s Day is not going to change this overnight, but it does give us the opportunity to pause and reflect on what each of us could do to contribute to correcting the inequalities that exist; not just on gender but on all aspects.

Turning to SLR specifically, the ‘Our People’ element of our Group strategy includes consciously embracing and valuing diversity at all levels. In Europe, perhaps the most evident aspect of this ongoing journey is the greater inclusion of women into our senior management team and other important positions. The European Management Team (EMT) now includes Julie Gartside, Syrina Smith, Sue Swain and Laura Nutt while Karen Palmer is a senior member of our Finance team - ok it’s not 50% but I like to think that it demonstrates progress, especially when you also include in Diane Buchanan our recently appointed CFO, who is also on our Board of Directors. There is clearly more work to do; I’m very conscious for example, that the diversity of our TDM's could be improved.

Andrea Wilcockson, Principal, Ecology, Worcester

In 2017 there are still debates in the media as to whether it’s ok to tell women they have to wear skirts and high heels to work or where men are asked (as my husband once was) “how do you feel about having a female boss?”. I was lucky to attend a school which was equally supportive of girls and boys, yet I was one of only two girls in my A-level Chemistry class.  Statistically there are still fewer girls taking sciences than boys.  The majority of my lecturers during my degrees were men.  I would hope that this has changed in the last twenty years.

I am acutely aware as a mother of two young daughters that positive role models and messages are still necessary to encourage them to develop into strong and independent women.  It’s great that websites such as “a mighty girl.com”, t-shirts with positive messages such as “I’m not strong for a girl, I’m just strong” and the This Girl Can campaign are available and being promoted. However, I hope in the future they will no longer be needed and that campaigns will move onto focusing on positive messages and role models for everybody. 

I joined SLR in 2003 and I’ve seen a steady increase in the number of women in the company during my time. In the early days I recall a manager at a client’s site having to tell a whole room of men to go back to work when they all came to see two women having a site induction. Thankfully such incidents were rare and I am pleased that I have not heard mention of such attitudes, or unwelcome attention, in recent years.  

I don’t feel like my own career progression has been held back because I’m a woman, in spite of taking time off to raise a family. This is largely down to my own attitude at work, supported by an understanding line manager and backed up by an encouraging husband. I consider SLR to be a balanced company, supportive of career development for both genders. In the future, I hope that new entrants into the ecology field regardless of their gender will be given equal opportunities to progress their careers, in the knowledge that they are supported and respected for who they are, not what sex they are.  Then the aim of International Women’s Day in 2017 for a better working world - a more gender inclusive world - will be met.