8 March 2020

International Women's Day 2020

International Women’s Day 2020

MHR’s Executive Vice Chairman, Jessica Mills, leads our efforts to support the women in our business throughout the year and especially on International Women’s Day.

Every year, on 8th March, the world celebrates International Women’s Day to recognise women’s achievements and support the global advancements towards ending discrimination and inequality against women.

This year, the International Women’s Day 2020 campaign is #EachforEqual, which focuses on how collaboration can create change and influence progress towards equality in the workplace and in the world. Collaboration is important at MHR and is a principal value in our One Story approach, so supporting the #EachforEqual campaign compliments this.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, MHR gathered some of their key women, including the Chief Marketing Officer and the Product Planning Director to name just two, to host an open discussion about their career paths, the barriers they have overcome and the advice they’d offer to people considering their futures.

“Don’t be afraid to push yourself. Don’t feel de-motivated when you’re pushed back. And always believe in yourself.” – Charlene Woolley, Head of Services at MHR’s Managed Services

All nine women discussed their successes and barriers and ultimately all came to the same conclusion that the main barrier faced in the world of work is that of self-confidence in their voice. All of our key women spoke about having limited self-confidence that had often prevented them from participating in discussions, taking on challenges out of their comfort zone or celebrating their successes in the workplace. This parallels the outcomes of the 2019 survey carried out by Momentum which found that 75% of women felt confidence held them back in their career progression. Clare Moore, MHR’s Head of Marketing Communications, explained: “A lot of women in the sector experience impostor syndrome and believe that they’re going to get found out for not having the right skills… but actually, they have a lot to offer.”

The next most common barrier discussed by these women is the impact of motherhood and pregnancy on their careers. Fears surrounding judgement upon their return to work from maternity leave and questions around their capabilities after time away from the office rank highest in the most impacting barriers. They also discussed their experiences of receiving projects that were far below their skill set, compared to their male counterparts in the same situation, and feeling as though their career progression had halted due to their newfound role as a parent. In a recent survey, it was concluded that 72% of women feel conflicted when balancing their family and careers which shows the internal difficulties mothers face when trying to balance their priorities.

 "I think it's really important that in a competitive, fast-paced environment we don't compete against each other, but we support and give each other a leg up, that we help each other where it's needed." – Michelle Shelton, Product Planning Director at MHR

When it came to advice for other women starting their careers or working in the technology sector, there was plenty of guidance to be offered.

Most importantly, the guidance was aimed at having self-belief and building confidence in your ideas and capabilities. Laura Timms, Product Strategy Manager for MHR Analytics, spoke about having doubts at the start of a career, saying: “It’s easy to assume that when you first start your career that you’re really far behind everyone else, whereas actually that isn’t always the case and sometimes the points you put forward can be really valid and actually give a fresh pair of eyes on things.” Believing in yourself, trusting your instincts and being brave enough to voice your ideas are valuable to progress in your role and career. Elisabeth Simpsons, MHR’s Strategic Business Manager, supported this by advising: “The advice I would give to other women working in the tech sector is to be yourself. The experience, the broad range of interests and values that you have as an individual is what you bring uniquely to your role.” Another piece of recurring advice was to never be afraid to ask for support, whether from a mentor, a manager, or a colleague. Steph Murtagh, MHR’s Product Marketing Manager, expanded on this, saying: “I think women should support each other a lot in business. We are quite quick to tear down other women… but we should be supportive of everyone.”

Additionally, you shouldn’t fear new challenges, even when they are out of your comfort zone. Learning from new experiences, as well as learning from failures, will support professional and personal growth. Hannah Jeacock, MHR’s Research Director, said: “You need to understand that it’s good to fail and then learn from failure, and then make sure that you actually move on and grow from that.” An important part of developing your career is learning from everyone around you, and taking inspiration from everyone, especially strong and leading females, can guide you towards that. Jeanette Wheeler, MHR’s HR Director, said: “I find inspiration everywhere. Mostly though, it’s the strong women that are in my family. They’ve taught me that anything is possible.”

Striving to collaborate with other women, and other people, can add value to your organisation in its entirety. It’s important to support women in business, especially in the technology sector, but it’s also important to support everyone by encouraging, offering guidance, and helping each other when needed.

"I think it is important to support women in business, but it's more important to support everyone about doing the right job and making sure that you're all working together to make sure you get the right business outcome."

– Emma Isichei, Chief Marketing Officer at MHR

So, this International Women’s Day, let’s all join the #EachforEqual campaign and all work together to make positive changes towards gender equality in our workplaces, and in the world. This is not just a female topic, diversity is about us all.

Jo Howell

Jo is on MHR's Graduate Management Scheme after graduating from University of Exeter with a degree in mathematics and psychology.

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