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Celebrating International Women’s Day with women who inspire us

This International Women’s Day (Tuesday 8 March) marks a call to action to #BreakTheBias where we, as a society, collectively work together to help create a world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination.

As IWD celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, we’ve spoken to some of the inspirational women we have the pleasure of working with about their personal experiences and how they’re Breaking the Bias…

Jill Whittaker, FCA, Managing Director, HIT Training

“When I started my accountancy training, I was told that my trouser suit wasn’t acceptable work attire. When I asked why, I was told “it’s an unwritten rule that women don’t wear trousers”. I suggested that perhaps it should be written down as a rule so it could be understood. It wasn’t and trousers became part of work attire for women.

“My advice to all would be to call out bias when you see it. Most perpetrators are doing it unthinkingly. Make them think.”

Helen Hewitt, CEO British Woodworking Federation (BWF)

“As a woman, I always advocate other females joining male-dominated industries, it can be a challenge sometimes, but it’s incredibly rewarding too. Be true to yourself, be proud of who you are and how you have achieved it, and just face the world head on – it is all about self-belief and not being forced into a situation where you feel you have to behave in a way you feel isn’t you, just to fit in.”

Hannah Elliot, Group Talent and Development Director, The Celtic Collection

“Moving through leadership roles within hotels, I was often the only woman around the table. However, we are extremely proud that 50% of our senior leadership team are women. We are also an all-female team in Talent and Development. I am proud to say that we see ourselves as strong women. We are each other’s cheerleaders and we pick up on when we need to boost each other’s confidence.”

Janet Groves, Chairman, Lanes Health

“Perceptions from the past were that women weren’t equipped to take the lead in business – I am pleased to see those perceptions are changing, thankfully.

“In 2001 I took over the helm of the family business after two generations of men had led the way. For me, it was a natural progression, and I was lucky to be fully supported by my family and the healthcare industry. I am aware that for other woman they may not have been so lucky and there are still some barriers to #breakingthebias, which is why I am a strong believer that at Lanes Health we give everyone equal opportunity regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual bias, age, religious belief or family status and we take great pride in supporting a diverse and inclusive workforce.”

Linda Martin, Managing Director, Professional Assessment Ltd

“I have been fortunate to work with leaders who have always supported my desire to learn and have completely got the focus on the results, not the time spent at your desk.

“As Nelson Mandela so beautifully said, “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” and to this end, I always encourage and support others to keep learning.”

Lucy Auld, Head of Marketing, Freixenet Copestick

“The wine industry often gets labelled as being particularly male dominated, however there are lots of notable women in history who have been instrumental in the development of wine.

“I sit on the senior leadership team with four other brilliant women and as part of the wider senior management team, I feel we have a fair voice. I am responsible for the professional development of a largely female team and feel extremely proud that these brilliant ladies will be the marketing leaders of the future.”

Kelly Pepworth, MD, Speed

“Breaking bias is about awareness, understanding and education. It’s about speaking up and speaking out. Often bias is unconscious – an ignored voice, an unexplained preference, a comment that’s left unchallenged – but that doesn’t make it any less impactful or detrimental.

“We all have a role to play in creating safe environments – be it work, our communities or home – where bias and discrimination has no place.”

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