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Juggling a job and childcare, getting to the top and should there be a dedicated women's day?

Left to right: Nicki Cluley, Angela Marshall, Casidhe Baleri, Michelle Hayter, Kate Shaw, Feriser Tasdelen. Picture: Dorset Biz News.

By Staff Reporter [email protected]

Published: March 15, 2023 | Updated: 6th September 2023

Juggling childcare with a career, how more women are in top positions and whether there should be an International Women’s Day.

Just three of the hot topics sparking a lively discussion at our latest quarterly Biz Round Table.

Held, appropriately, on International Women’s Day our all-female panel comprised:

  • Casidhe Baleri, Director – Audit, Saffery Champness.
  • Nicki Cluley, Corporate Partnerships Fundraiser.
  • Michelle Hayter, Partner and Head of Ringwood Office, Frettens Solicitors.
  • Angela Marshall, Account Executive, Gallagher Insurance.
  • Kate Shaw, Managing Director, KTPR.
  • Feriser Tasdelen, Finance Director, The Prama Foundation.

First off, the pressures of juggling childcare and a busy career.

Because, as Angela, pointed out: “It is still, traditionally, the woman who gets the call if their child is ill and is expected to go and deal with it even if they work further way.”

For Nicki, pictured left and at the time holding a regional director’s role with a major radio group, the conflict came into sharp relief on one particular day.

She said: “It was my absolute dream job and I loved it but I found it really hard.

“The epiphany moment came when I was driving to Kent to pitch some promotions.

“My daughter was at nursery in Bournemouth.

“I received a call saying she had a temperature of 40 degrees and can I come and collect her?

“I was near Brighton.

“It was such a split for me to phone my team in Kent and say: ‘I’m so sorry but I can’t come. I’m on my way but I’m turning around.’

“They said: ‘It’s fine, don’t worry’ but it wasn’t fine to me.

“I felt like I’d let down my team and I’d let down my child.

“I literally cried the whole way to nursery because I just felt I was being a terrible Mum, a terrible boss and a terrible team player.

“All that pressure came from me, not from anyone I worked with.

“The next day I went to see my boss and said: ‘I can’t do this role anymore.’

“I took a drop down the ladder from Director to Account Manager and I was really happy with that.”

So have things improved for women in the workplace, especially at the top table?

Absolutely, said Feriser, pictured right.

She said: “If I go back 30 years, there was something different about women in leadership roles.

“They were regarded as not like other women, perhaps a bit harder or liked to drink with the boys at the bar.

“They had to make some justification as to why they had been successful whereas now it’s OK to be a woman and feminine and have a family and be in such a role.”

Michelle said: “Even though women were coming through law the people around the top table were predominantly men.

“In the last ten to 15 years that has switched.

“For the first time ever in the last five years there have been more women qualifying into law than men and more women are sitting around that top table.

“We have five equity partners at Frettens and three are women.

“I can definitely see a shift over time.”

Angela, pictured left, pointed out that not all women wanted to climb the ladder.

She said: “I’m the most senior woman in my office.

“Most of the women I have worked with don’t want to make the step up from Account Handler to Account Executive.

“The women don’t want the pressure and the work hours and responsibility.”

But do males still dominate the workplace – and does bias against women still exist?

That’s not the experience of Kate.

She said: “In my career, and I have had various careers, I’ve never experienced male heavy dominance.

“It’s always been very balanced.

“I started out in banking, then fundraising, worked for an MP, in the independent school sector and then set up KTPR.”

Nicki said: “I’ve worked in really mixed teams and always been welcomed.”

But Feriser said: “I think there’s an unconscious bias sometimes when you go for a job.

“It’s about whether someone can picture you in a role.

“When you’re in an area where it’s predominantly male, or there haven’t been lots of females who’ve broken into a senior level, then they can’t always see women in a role.

“I think most industries have broken through that because they’ve got women in roles but there are some areas that haven’t.”

However, the workplace has changed dramatically over the years, not least the opportunities available to young people.

Casidhe, pictured right, said: “I started off in an office where there were only two trainees and about 30 people.

“We’re now an office of about 85-90 and take in eight or nine trainees a year.

“To see the growth and change is amazing.

“We are now about 50-50 male to female ratio with more female partners nationally than we have ever had before.

“It’s just a really good place to work.”

The role of women is celebrated with the annual International Women’s Day.

And although a lesser-known International Men’s Day is held – on November 19 this year – is there a place for such events?

Michelle, pictured left, said: “I get that there should be a Mother’s Day and a Father’s Day but, no, we should not be segregated in this way.”

Nicki said: “I don’t agree with women only networks because we’ve been trying to level peg so why would we then segregate?

“If it was a men’s only event we would not like that.

“We want equal opportunity and then to do women’s only things doesn’t make sense.”

Casidhe said: “We’re talking about gender equality and that’s what we’re striving for.

“We then don’t want to pinpoint women and have a day to celebrate that.”

Kate, pictured right, said: “I prefer it when men and women work together collaboratively.

“It’s much more fun.”

But Feriser and Angela disagreed.

Feriser said: “International Women’s Day is not necessarily about saying we’re not all equal because I think we are although there are still areas to improve.

“Instead it’s remembering that it hasn’t always been this way and is a celebration of what we’ve achieved to be equal.

“I think it’s a massive achievement how it’s changed.

“For me it’s real and important.

“It’s the women that have gone before, fought and strived that have actually pushed us and helped us to get where we are.

“It’s still very relevant.”

Angela had the final word.

She said: “For developed nations – Europe, Australia, UK – things are moving on and we’re on the right footpath in terms of being equal in pay and conditions.

“For me it’s more the international part which is important with a day to focus on and keep awareness.”

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Our thanks to Frettens Solicitors for hosting the Biz Round Table and to Michelle Hayter for chairing the session.

The next quarterly round table, in association with our commercial partners Fireworx, Frettens Solicitors, Gallagher and Saffery Champness, will be in June.

 

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