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Our commitment to empowering women at GC

  • Thursday, March 7, 2024
  • Posted By The Growth Company

Anne Buckley joined the Growth Company in 2017 as a Business Development Director. Prior to this she was the Business Development Director at London-based PublicCo and Newcastle College Group. Anne is the SMT Sponsor of our Women’s EDI Network which raises awareness of women’s challenges in and out of the workplace and supports women at the different stages of their careers.

As it is International Women’s Day, Anne reflects on her career and explains the importance of empowering women and how the Growth Company is working to achieve this.

Profile image of Anne Buckley

By Anne Buckley, Executive Director of Business Development

This year, the theme for International Women’s Day is Invest in Women: Accelerate Change. As we all know, the challenges women face in the workplace constantly evolve throughout their careers, whether it's gender-related, pay-related, caring responsibilities and so much more. International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to reflect on the progress we’ve made at GC.

Last year, our Women’s Network hosted an ‘Own Your Career This Year’ event and we asked everybody who attended what they saw as the main barriers preventing women's progression or impacting women in the workplace. The main three things discussed were confidence and imposter syndrome, age (either being too young or too old) and caring responsibilities. Just like our colleagues who attended our event, I have faced and face similar challenges. Earlier in my career, I often felt too young to be in conversations.  I found it difficult to make my voice heard in male dominated conversations and sometimes felt I was introduced as an afterthought. I benefited from a male manager that recognised this challenge, enabled me to take my space and he was a great support early in my career - and a fantastic example of how men can be good allies.

The challenge I'm facing now is a little bit different. I have a three-year old son and the challenge is getting the balance right between being in a leadership role and being present for my son. I appreciate our flexible working policy that has enabled me to work four days a week, giving me a day to spend with my son. But even now I’m still experiencing the challenges familiar to all parents and carers, balancing the work deadlines and family need.

Every woman in our organisation will face unique challenges, and it’s important for us to recognise this, listen and act.

Celebrate what we’ve achieved so far, but keep going

It’s important to celebrate the fantastic strides that we’ve already made towards equality. Our gender pay gap is 0.6% which is well below the average UK gender pay gap recorded by the ONS in 2023 of 7.7%.  In terms of gender proportions, 60% of our colleagues are female, and 58% of our managers are female. The data and feedback we receive suggests that we are doing the right things to attract women into our organisation and supporting them to progress in their careers.

It would be easy to look at these statistics and feedback and think that we’ve done all we need to do, but we know that there is always more we can do and we’re always looking for ways to continue building on our successes, we’re not stopping.

We're about to issue a new women's survey this year to understand what the unique challenges and barriers are that women in GC are facing.

I think there's real value in the EDI groups that we have at GC, especially when responding to multi-layered challenges that women face and having our eight EDI Networks allow us to work closely with colleagues to understand the issues that are important and plan cross group responses. Examples of cross EDI network work include our virtual Safety at Night-time event that was really well attended – we set this up with EmbRace and LGBTQ+ networks based on some feedback about our colleagues not feeling safe to walk during the dark evenings. We also worked on a joint Menopause Cafe Event with the Health and Wellbeing EDI Network to raise awareness of the support options available and the steps we are taking to offer more support to colleagues.

Importance of empowerment and mentorship

Having good mentors around you can be really important. Throughout my career, I've been fortunate to be surrounded by inspirational women who have supported and empowered me.  I found a mentor early in my career - I still keep in contact with her today. Having her in the room just made such a massive difference in helping me feel comfortable and building my knowledge really quickly. I learned so much from her and I definitely think that meeting her helped me to progress to the Director role I'm in today. My mum has also been an inspiration and mentor to me, showing me what can be achieved with hard work and resilience.

I love working in an organisation that's really well-represented with women, especially on our SMT. It gives an added layer of reassurance knowing that you're working with people who have gone or are going through similar challenges to you.

We’ve recently introduced our new mentor programme and around 70% of colleagues who have applied to either be a mentor or a mentee are female which I think is incredible in terms of women empowerment. It makes me proud to know that we have so many women in our organisation that want to support each other to overcome barriers so that others will not have to face the same challenges I and many women have faced, or at least not have to face them alone.

Advice for women

The first piece of advice I’d give is to embrace who you are. Know your values and what you bring and lean into them, because often I think as women we can feel nervous, doubt ourselves and experience imposter syndrome. But when we lean into some of our strengths, it can give us confidence and a firm foundation to get comfortable. And then when we're comfortable, I think we can achieve some fantastic results.

The next one is to face the fear and do it anyway. I think it's really important. Research has shown that when a woman sees a job advert, they are less likely to apply than males with similar experiences and knowledge. There have been times in my career where I've definitely faced the fear - because what's the worst that can happen! I think that's worked to my benefit most of the time!

The final piece of advice is to be kind to yourself, so realising not everything goes to a plan. There is a really good quote “test fast, fail fast, adjust fast” and it's genuinely one that I've lived my career around. I really like the idea that you don't need to get it 100% right in order to get into the room. Just do some things, figure out if they're working, because some of it will and some of it won't and adjust your approach accordingly.

Celebrating our impact, every day

So, what does International Women’s Day mean to me? I'm proud to be a woman, and I’m really proud to lead our Women’s EDI network as an SMT sponsor. But I'm more proud of the impact that women have within our workplace and how inclusive we are as an organisation. And that doesn't happen on a single day. It happens every day.

When I think about International Women’s Day, I think about the incredible work that our business units do. I’m proud of how our business support services supports women to set up their own businesses and grow, how our Education and Skills team supports women to enter typically male-dominated careers through apprenticeships and Skills Bootcamps, and how our GC Employment team supports some of the most vulnerable women to access activities like boxing to build their confidence.

For me, that’s what’s important to celebrate.