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International Women’s Day gives us an opportunity each year to step back and reflect on the businesses we work in, and consider how they support and encourage women to flourish in their careers. It’s also a great time to take learnings from other businesses around the world.
Our CEO, Samantha, is passionate about championing women in the workplace and supporting them in achieving their full potential. At Open Study College, women make up 65% of the workforce, with 50% of the senior management team being female, as well as a large proportion of our students too.
Samantha said “Despite being co-founder of the business, becoming CEO (taking the reins from my father in 2018) provided its own challenges in what is still a heavily male dominated industry. I often faced preconceptions due to my age and gender, assuming that the Sam referred to was male. And I will admit that walking into a meeting with men a lot older than me and years more experience used to be intimidating!
“However, being hugely passionate about giving people opportunities through education, alongside hard work, determination and growth of the business, I have been able to channel that into forging strong stakeholder relationships that now set me apart from my age and gender. I now encourage my team, as well as our students, to go out of their comfort zone with the confidence and passion they need to achieve their goals.”
There’s no doubt the world has come a long way, but there’s still some work to be done. With this year’s International Women’s Day theme being focussed around equality, we were interested in how members of the Open Study College team felt about equality and what it means to them, and why it’s important.
We had some amazing responses from both male and female members of the team, showing how passionate the Open Study College team feel about equality.
We spoke to Software Quality Engineer, Umesh and he said
"Why should it be pre-decided that this is what a man does and can only do, and this is what a woman does and can only do? I believe it is up to us as individuals to decide this. A man can teach a woman, a woman can teach a man. Once we have learned from one another we can both do each other’s jobs – whether it be cooking, cleaning or looking after a baby, all the way through to DIY, repairs and fixing a car - even running a business as a CEO, leading a country as a Prime Minister or President, or even an astronaut planning to go to the Moon or Mars!"
We have come a long way from how the world was 100 years ago, or even 30 years ago. For Credit Controller Kerrijane, she had a very different childhood to one her own girls now have.
"I grew up with four younger brothers who were all allowed to take part in all the sports whilst I was encouraged to help out around the house. I had to be home by 6pm yet my brothers were allowed to roam! I always felt a sense of injustice about this, and even at an early age, I knew that the world I was growing up in favoured the boys, and I, like many of my generation, knew this had to change."
She then adds,
"Fast forward 30 years and I am a working mother with three daughters, and I realise that they are living in a different world to the one I grew up in. Being told you play like a girl is a compliment. Working mothers are not bad mothers, they are inspirational! Choosing a career over motherhood is a choice – we are trendsetters inspiring the next generation of female generals.
We can be outspoken and we will be seen and heard! We can encourage a more gender equal world through education - it's not just about teaching our young ladies about the suffragettes and female history, but also our young men, because contrary to belief, there has been many a brave man that has stood shoulder to shoulder arguing for equality and we should be proud of them too. To be a true feminist you must understand that this means equality for ALL."
For Robbie, Head of Education and Development at Open Study College, it's important to him to encourage everyone around him to have an open mind. He says
"I will try to help forge a gender equal world by encouraging friends, family and colleagues to have an open mind and not make assumptions/judgments based on gender. I think we are quite lucky as a business to have both male and female representation across our management team as it gives us a more balanced view and range of viewpoints whenever we make key decisions. Gender should have no influence in society at all and everybody should have access to the same opportunities."
It's so important for everyone to understand that regardless of gender, everyone is considered equally.
Interestingly, things are changing in terms of what we consider to be gender specific subjects. Julia, Developer at OSC reckons
"Things are changing, when I studied Physics there were only 10% female students, and even less women in Engineering - in Mechanical Engineering there were 3 women and 600 men! Now, my daughter’s started studying Engineering and there a 20% women in her cohort. I encourage my daughters to study technical subjects.
The only really recent bad experience I’ve had was a garage that only listened to my husband. Needless to say, I changed garages ;) "
In a business, it's not about just filling a quota as Commercial Marketing Manager, Natalie notes
"When it comes to any kind of diversity, for me it’s not about fulfilling a quota, ‘We have X% of females in the business’ will only get you so far. How many of those women have progressed within the company? How many women sit on the board? What are you doing to support, develop and nurture the women you employ?
That’s why I know we’re so lucky at Open Study College to not only have a high percentage of female employees, but we also have a female CEO, female Directors and offer flexible working to support women, and men, balance their careers and home life. "
Rebecca, Senior Student Services Adviser says
"Equality to me means that everyone, regardless of their gender, age, ability, race etc, has the right to make the most out of their lives. To be truly equal regardless of what we wear, look like or believe in.
I personally believe that equality is important as it empowers people and gives both a sense of purpose and personal achievement. I believe it’s important to raise our children to be who they want to be, not what society thinks they should be. Such a simple yet effective act of acceptance can really help to shape the future.
I have witnessed male nurses get funny looks when they disclose that they are indeed both male and a nurse. Why shouldn’t a male and a female carry out the same jobs?!
I also have a friend who used to be an engineer at a car garage and when a customer asked for an engineer to check his exhaust, she said “sure I’ll come out to your car now” and he replied “aren’t you going to ask one of the blokes”. I couldn’t believe the ignorance!
As Stormzy said during his speech at The 2020 Brit Awards, “…the best male is nothing without the best females…”.
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