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green sapling growing out of laptop keyboard
Why Should Your Business Consider a Hybrid Working Model?
5 March 2022
apogee corporation 3d marble render
Apogee Appoints Chief People Officer to Executive Leadership Team
9 March 2022

Conversations for Change: International Women’s Day

For the second episode of Conversations for Change, we are dedicating the entire month of March to International Women's Day (8th March) with a series of talks from Apogee's people in tech.

 

How Apogee is supporting this year's International Women's Day theme: Breaking the Bias

At Apogee, we know open conversations have the power to spark innovation. International Women's Day serves as a timely reminder to always motivate action and that conversations serve as an excellent catalyst to inspire change.

Throughout the month of March in 2022, we will be releasing the interviews on a weekly basis to this page. Make sure to follow us on our social media as we announce each new release.

 

Q&A: Laura Collier - Head of Credit Control

1. What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

It is an opportunity to recognise and celebrate women. It raises our awareness of the outstanding achievements of women across generations and is a time for us to reflect and appreciate the amazing women in our own lives and the influence they have had on us.

I think about my mum on this day; she was courageous, selfless and the strongest woman I know. Her memory still inspires me daily.

2. What comes to mind when you think of this year’s International Women’s Day theme, breaking the Bias...?

In an ideal world, there would be no bias, no prejudice and no discrimination of any sort. This is the world I want to live in. I don’t think this is a naïve view, and it is possible. We can all contribute to making a positive change and take action in our day to day lives. For me, this year’s theme is about taking time to think about what we can do to help break down barriers.

3. Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Retired and planning my next cruise. Honestly, I still see myself working part-time as I don’t think I have the ability to switch off completely. I would like to be customer-facing, so perhaps a job in a coffee shop; good opportunity to train to be a barista!

4. Are there any women in particular that have positively impacted you in your career? If so, what’s one lesson they have taught you?

Two women have had a significant impact. Firstly, my mum, who taught me that hard work, effort and diligence will enable you to realise your potential and goals. Secondly, Scythia Cross, who was the Company Solicitor at Danwood and my mentor. She taught me that striving for perfection is unrealistic and can be detrimental to your mental health.

5. What advice do you have for women starting out in their careers?

You can achieve anything you set your mind to. Your career is in your hands, no one else’s. You are empowered to influence the journey you take and the outcome. Set your goals, work hard, and don’t let bumps along the way detract you; learn from them and use them to motivate you, and have confidence in your potential.

I would also highlight the importance of getting the work/life balance right. The pandemic has reminded us just how precious life is; take time for you, your family and your loved ones.

6. Tell us about a stereotype you’ve had to overcome.

I began my career in the 80s/90s in the City of London, working for a number of financial bodies and investment companies. The culture in that environment was that women in business should wear skirts and heels; their careers were temporary, a stop-gap until they left to start families. It was a very male-dominated environment and opportunities were limited as women tended not to be considered for managerial/senior positions. I accepted this as a challenge and took the opportunity to prove my ability, develop my skills and raise my profile within the company - all in flat, comfortable shoes!

7. What’s the best thing about being a woman?

Everything. Be proud of who you are. You are amazing!

8. Do you have one highlight of your career?

My team are one of the outstanding highlights of my career. My ethos is ‘be the change you wish to see in the world’ – and through positive leadership – this is what I endeavour to practice. I have set out to create a fair, unbiased and happy culture for my team where recognition is based on potential and ability, not on gender or what you are wearing.

9. What are the challenges facing women in business today?

Culture and attitudes are positively changing every day and there continues to be more focus on inclusivity and equality. That being said, the challenges facing women in business today are still real. There can be limitations, lack of opportunities and underrepresentation, particularly in certain sectors - discrimination, gender pay gaps and so on. The glass ceiling, which restricts women from taking senior leadership and executive role, is still a reality.

10. What are 3 key things you think are important to succeed as a woman in business?

  • Have confidence and self-belief; work hard and be willing to learn and develop your skills
  • Let your passion and emotion motivate you and drive you to succeed
  • Support each other and draw on the experience of a mentor/peer

Q&A: Lesley Fursedonn - Business Management Support Services Executive

1. What does International Women's Day mean to you?

A difficult question to answer in a few words but to me it means celebration, equality and sheer brilliance of ALL women across the world. For this to be recognised annually it means a lot, especially to all us amazing women out there.

2. What is your proudest achievement to date?

Such a cliché but my proudest achievement has to be my son. I'm super proud of him and what he is achieving in life, which certainly tells me that his father and I done something right! So this has to be my greatest and proudest achievement.

3. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I see myself laying on a beach with my husband, drinking cocktails. No, seriously, I would hope to think I'm still able to work as I love the independence that my career gives me. At the weekends I see myself spending quality time with my family.

4. Are there any women that have positively impacted you in your career? If so, what's one lesson they have taught you?

My sister! The lessons she has taught me is that we can achieve anything we want in life, we are the only ones who can help ourselves, and to not be afraid.

5. What advice do you have for women starting out in their careers?

a) Set a plan of what you want you want to achieve
b) Be confident in yourself – You can do this!
c) Never just be a yes person, your thoughts matter, let them be heard
d) Learn as much as you can
e) Enjoy life
f) And last but most definitely not least - find your true passion.

6. Do you have a highlight of your career?

The highlight of my career was finally finding a role that I was supposed to do, which meant I finally found my true passion in life.

7. What are the 3 key things you think are important to succeed as a woman in business?

  • Self-belief
  • Ambition
  • Confidence

Q&A: Niamh Birt - Public Sector Account Manager

1. What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

International Women’s Day is a useful reminder of the continuous journey we are on to right the inequality women face daily. Many organisations have made huge progress in representation of women in their senior leadership team, or indeed a variety of departments where they were poorly represented in numbers, due to misconceptions of who is ‘best fit’ for certain roles.

It is so important to have this annual celebration of all women so that we continue challenging ourselves as individuals, teams, and organisations. It helps us to continue taking the steps to make appropriate change on an ongoing basis.

2. What is your proudest achievement to date?

I have had many professional achievements, whether that be progression within my career or working on interesting projects. These have all been possible thanks to collaboration with some fantastic colleagues across a wide range of teams in the business and invaluable support from my own team.

My proudest personal achievement is completing the London Marathon. Having injured myself in the months running up to it, I wasn't sure if I would have to pull out, but I persevered with the recovery, physio, and slowly went back to my training plan – it was an incredible feeling crossing the finish line. Even better to celebrate with my family afterwards, who knew I could do it all along.

3. Are there any women in particular that have positively impacted you in your career? If so, what’s one lesson they have taught you?

My mother has always worked incredibly hard which has instilled a strong work ethic in both my sisters and me. I have been lucky enough to work with many successful women. One that will always stand out would be a mentor I had about six months into my first full time role, who supported me by preparing me for an interview for my next role - it gave me greater confidence to go for the role. Having been successful in the interview, it was one of the most important stepping stones in my career. This has taught me the value of having supportive mentors, as well as to ensure I offer my own support, where possible, to colleagues.

4. What advice do you have for women starting out in their careers?

Get into the habit of regular journaling. Write down your goals and aspirations. Keeping a record helps to track progress you are making and encourages you to focus on the next step (and the next one, and the next one...).

Reminding yourself of the daily smaller successes and lessons learned are just as important as the big ones.

Writing goals and achievements down daily / weekly are like fitness progress pictures for success in your career. You might not see change immediately, but overtime you can look back to see how far you have come.

5. Tell us about a stereotype you’ve had to overcome.

On one occasion during a team meeting, I was asked at the end to issue minutes from the notes I had taken. It felt a little out of touch to be singled out for the task as I was the only woman in the room, but in the same role as others at the table. One of the senior male leads in the room spoke up to advise he would collate the notes for distribution.

Breaking the Bias takes action from everyone in the room, and this action from my colleague has stayed with me and I'm sure others who were in the room that day.

6. What are the challenges facing women in business today?

One of the key challenges for women in business today is how the same actions / personality types are perceived depending on your gender. For example, men are assertive versus women are bossy. We all need to think more carefully about the language we use to address this bias.

7. What are 3 key things you think are important to succeed as a woman in business?

  • One of the most key things I think is important to help women succeed in business is to surround themselves with the people who can see the value they can offer and will help them learn and grow.
  • Secondly, believe in yourself and your abilities. You can do anything you set your mind to.
  • Finally, you are not going to know all the answers (nobody does!!). Don't be afraid to ask questions, and more importantly, ask for help when you need it.

Q&A: Rachel Banks - Product Manager

1. What does International Women's Day mean to you?

Positive change. I look forward to a future where there is no requirement for IWD. A world in which we celebrate successful people and their gender is irrelevant, where strong successful women are the status quo. In the UK we have come a long way to achieving that but IWD gives us the opportunity to inspire women in countries where they have to fight for even the basic rights such as access to education.

2. What is your proudest achievement to date?

There have been many moments in my career where I have smashed targets, saved the business money or created efficiencies, all of which I have been proud of but as a mother of two young children it would not feel right if my greatest achievement did not relate to them. Being a working mother is incredibly hard and there are constant challenges and emotional guilt but I am so proud to be a role model to them, to show them life's possibilities. At just four years old they are already beautifully sassy and independent and know what they want.

3. What comes to mind when you think of this year's International Women's Day theme, Breaking the Bias...?

I love this year's theme! It's the answer to achieving an equal playing field for men and women. So many of the challenges women face in the workplace stem from unconscious bias. Managers naturally form affinities with their team members, and this is fuelled by social categories and common interests. This can result in key projects and conversations only being shared with those who there are affinities with. It can be harder for women to build a rapport when working in a man dominated industry. We need to create a more diverse workforce to mitigate this risk.

4. Where do you see yourself in ten years?

My ambitions are simply to be a success in whatever I do. To be well thought of and to provide a positive impact. In ten years I will have two beautiful teenage daughters and so I hope to be a role model to them, to show them they can achieve anything they set their mind to.

5. Are there any women in particular that have positively impacted you in your career? If so, what's one lesson they have taught you?

I was lucky to work with incredibly inspiring women in my early career. In particular, one who worked in a heavily male dominated role and showed me the possibilities. She showed me it was possible to be respected, to be successful and to still also be a mother. This was so important. You can't be what you can't see, as Marian Edelman once said.

6. What advice do you have for women starting out in their careers?

Find something that you can be passionate about and then stay true to yourself. Ask questions and don't be afraid to say when you don't know the answer.

7. Tell us about a stereotype you've had to overcome.

Whilst working in the construction industry I was subjected to many situations fuelled by gender stereotypes. On many occasions in client facing meetings I would find that the client would often talk over/through me and direct questions at my male colleagues. As the product expect I was best placed to answer these questions, but although I was the one answering the next question would again be directed at my colleague. There was an assumption that being female I could not be the most technically able in the room.

8. What's the best thing about being a woman?

Admittedly in a previous role when I was working in construction there were times where I felt it opened a few doors for me being female. People were intrigued to see what I had to offer and I got in with clients where others couldn't. However, on the flip side of this, it was incredibly hard work to then maintain this relationship. I had to really prove myself very quickly in a way my fellow colleagues were not having to. I don't believe we should be driven to achieve by our gender. We should celebrate all successes equally.

9. Do you have one particular highlight of your career?

Being asked to participate in IWD's in a highlight for sure. Being recognised as successful and potentially being about to inspire others is very humbling. Another highlight was travelling to China for a week to source products and suppliers. I made this journey alone and had ultimate decision making on all aspects. It was very empowering to know I had the respect of my managing director in making the right decisions for the business.

10. What are the challenges facing women in business today?

As mentioned earlier there are still some challenges present where affinities are formed often in a more social environment. Out on the golf course, watching the football/boxing for example. If women do not have these shared interests its harder to build a rapport. Women also have the additional challenge of still generally being see as the main caregiver towards children. Once I remove my make up at the end of the day, my thoughts do not tend to be how to progress up the hierarchy. To attract more women into leadership roles, companies need to offer flexibility. The work/life balance is essential.

11. What are 3 key things you think are important to succeed as a woman in business?

  • Be true to yourself.
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions.
  • Be positive and passionate.

Q&A: Sarah Walters - Commercial Sales Account Manager

1. What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

It’s a great opportunity to reflect and listen to amazing women who have and are still trying to break the Bias and to see how much has changed.

2. What is your proudest achievement to date?

Apart from our daughter, I am very proud of my longstanding sales results in a very male dominated and competitive industry.

3. What comes to mind when you think of this year’s International Women’s Day theme, Breaking the Bias...?

Sport and how far it has come over the years. My daughter is a keen sportswoman, and she has so many more opportunities to try than I did at school. As a result, she would like to play for the England Women’s Cricket team when she is older. Something that was not available to me but maybe that’s because I have ZERO co-ordination with anything involving a bat and ball!

4. Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Probably best not to put my real aspirations of living the dream of life on a Caribbean beach! Seriously though, as long as I am still achieving, fulfilled and enjoying my career, at that point, I will be happy.

5. Are there any women in particular that have positively impacted you in your career? If so, what’s one lesson they have taught you?

I can’t think of just one woman who directly impacted my career but more generally speaking, throughout my career, I was always pleasantly surprised by how supportive other women in the business celebrated my achievements with me.

6. What advice do you have for women starting out in their careers?

Always be professional and honest. Work hard, learn your products, hone your craft; that will provide a biproduct of self-belief. It will, in turn, earn the credibility you rightly deserve.

7. Do you have one particular highlight of your career?

To be honest it should be my sales results and awards but being part of breaking the bias is amongst the top. When I was promoted to a middle management role, a senior director approached me to congratulate me on mine and my team’s performance.

8. What are the challenges facing women in business today?

I am still not sure why there are still so few women in sales in our industry. It could be because it is still so male dominated that some women don’t feel it’s right for them. I hope that generalisations in the Technology industry change as I have enjoyed my career so far and would recommend to all.

9. What are 3 key things you think are important to succeed as a woman in business?

  • The same as anyone, hard work and dedication.
  • Having a plan and goals to work towards be it a holiday, promotion or recognition.
  • Having integrity and sincerity.

Conversations for Change by Apogee Corporation

Our goal is not only to educate you but to drive what Apogee Corporation can do. While at Apogee we aspire to always do more, we know that this is a continual learning experience, come with us on this journey as we delve into these subjects which are close to the hearts of so many.

You can follow the conversation on our website and engage with us on our social media by using #ConversationsForChange.

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