Celebrating International Women's Day

Recognised around the world, International Women’s Day is a time for celebrating female achievement and reflecting on the progress that has been made by women. This includes the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, whether this is on a small scale or a grander platform. It is also a day for recognising and progressing gender equality, as well as the agenda for every person to be afforded the same rights and respect, regardless of divisions; whether national, ethnic, cultural, economic or political.

SLR is fortunate to employ many intelligent and inspiring women who have worked hard in their chosen fields, and have made their own mark on the company. To celebrate International Women’s Day (8th of March) we want to share with you the stories of some of these women. So, having asked many of the senior women in SLR what International Women’s Day means to them, we are delivering their stories, opinions and anecdotes. 

Sarah Lovell, Associate, EMPC

Starting out in my professional life over 15 years ago, I always felt a strong sense of pride, forging my career in what was still very much a male dominated sector. Even growing up in the 1980’s, it genuinely never occurred to me that being a girl could stop me from achieving anything I put my mind to. Happily it is a much more of a balanced workplace nowadays and I have had the pleasure of working with many talented and inspiring women over the years.

Now in the middle stages of my career, juggling work with family life, I feel fortunate that I have not felt the need to make a choice between one or the other. But it can often feel like a struggle and the lack of diversity at the top of many companies does not go unnoticed. When the pace of career progression slows, it is natural to wonder whether the 'glass ceiling' is real or imagined. Either way, it is great to see the benefits of greater diversity in senior management starting to be more widely acknowledged and I for one would love to see more encouragement and support for those women who are striving towards the top.

Leanne Broadbent, Senior Commercial Advisor, Oil & Gas Advisory

When asked to write a contribution for International Women’s Day my first reaction was to say “No”. I’ve never felt that my gender has impacted my career – I mean “Why would it?” and so in truth I’ve never really connected with the idea of an 'International Women’s Day’. When people talk of equality in the workplace I instinctively think of disability or race but never gender. So what could I possibly have to say on the subject? On reflection however I realise that my immunity to the issue of gender inequality, which obviously still exists, is as a result of the great companies I have worked for during my career, the bosses I’ve had as well as my ‘no excuse’ attitude.

My first graduate role was at National Power – the newly privatised arm of the Central Electricity Generating Board. In 1996, the company had women at Board and Director Level in commercial, corporate and engineering functions. This was a company that worked hard to develop and retain talent offering flexible working and family friendly policies. As my first employer, this was my norm. No opportunity was off limits. My first posting was at Didcot coal fired power station learning the ‘ropes’ on shifts with the O&M team. Whilst a female on shift was unusual at that time, and there certainly was some ‘banter’, I learnt from experienced men who were eager to share their knowledge.

Then years later moving from a FTSE100 company to Challenge Energy - I again joined a company with a gender diverse workforce across all disciplines that offered flexible working making it possible to manage a career and a family – and I see the same philosophy in SLR. When I talk to other working mums juggling their careers with family priorities, I realise that this is not their norm and finding the right balance for them is often a struggle.

Without realising it, I have been surrounded by role models (male and female) that have set a standard throughout my career. But my first role model was my Dad. He never let me or my sister play the ‘female’ card. We helped with chores whether it be changing the oil and the spark plugs on the car (in the days when people could service their own engines) or helping to bake a cake. On taking delivery of my first car I had to prove I could change a tyre before being allowed out on the road – his mantra to us “being female is not an excuse”.

And so my message is for the Dads out there. Be a role model to your daughters … and to your sons: – “make no excuse, accept no excuse, and embrace every opportunity”.

Julie Gartside, Advisory Service Line Operations Manager and Technical Director, Carbon & Energy Management, Manchester

What does International Women’s Day mean to me? I hope it’s a celebration of women’s achievements and an opportunity to hear how different women have arrived at their current positions in their careers. So how did I get to where I am now? I could talk about the mechanics of degrees, the different roles I’ve had etc. but I think it’s the underlying things that make me tick which I’d like to share.

Firstly, motivation. My motivation originates as a result of my parents and older brother. My brother was born with a disability and never had an easy time growing up. As a consequence my parents had a challenge on their hands in making the everyday work smoothly (but they did it brilliantly). As a result of growing up in that environment I know how incredibly lucky I am to even be able to do the basic things in life like walking, so being able to have a career is a privilege and something I value every day. I hope everyone reminds themselves frequently of what their motivation is.

Secondly, I want to enjoy my job. I’m no different to most people; if we enjoy something we will want to keep doing it and we give it more effort. So throughout my career I have looked for and grasped the opportunities I am likely to enjoy because they are either interesting or challenging. And when those opportunities haven’t existed, I have gone to find them. I’m certainly not passive! If I have seen a situation where something should and could be done then I’ve tried to help make it happen. This pursuit of a happy and fun working environment also once led to making the CEO of my former company wear giant purple glasses when myself and some colleagues were presenting to him and the rest of the Executive Team our recommendations on a diversity campaign!

I don’t think being female has ever negatively affected my career. I hope most of us now see past gender or disabilities or the other things that make us different, and instead we look at what makes each of us special and the strengths we each bring to our teams. I think the diversity we have in our skills sets, personalities, experiences etc. is something we should cherish. So whilst I’m happy there is an ‘International Women’s Day’ to celebrate achievements and inspire women where barriers still exist, I hope one day in the future it will be considered unnecessary as gender just won’t be seen as an issue anymore.