Earlier this month our Business Support Manager and Head of Culture, Cathy Hinsley, went to visit a great organisation called Women to Work. This foir profit social enterprise supports organisations to create gender balanced workplaces with initiatives to develop and inspire women to work to the best of their ability. They are particularly known for their work within male-dominated sectors and have worked with organisations such as the South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service and Chess Telecom. We asked Women to Work the question: "how can AAG support the cause of encouraging more women to join the tech industry?" They said that as a women-owned and run business, we should share our story: so that's exactly what we're going to do.
Both our CEO, Alexa Greaves and our MD Michelle Walker agree that nothing can be achieved without showing bravery and that's something they have both shown throughout their careers. Michelle in particular has demonstrated how, with the right team around you and support mechanisms, you can build a hugely successful career and balance it with a family and personal life, too. Says Michelle of her career with AAG: "I joined AAG at the very beginning back in 2009, after a number of years struggling to balance being a single parent with building a career. I had earned enough qualifications to put myself forward as the Finance Manager for this fledgling break-fix business and just went for it – it was a make or break move for me, with a young son to support”.
"Since then I have worked alongside Alexa every day to build a strong business model, make sound commercial decisions and bring in the best people to help develop as we grow the business. It has never been a conscious effort to build a gender-balanced workplace but equality is ingrained in what we do and we have always attracted women who want to build a career alongside looking after a family. We have promoted a large portion of our staff internally and are proud to say that nearly all of the female staff who made up the original AAG team are still with the business. I'm sure that having a board of directors that is at least 50% female has contributed to our ability to recruit and retain the best female talent”.
"Alexa has done a huge amount for women in technology through Forward Ladies, CRN, our partners and suppliers, and now by sitting on the Sheffield LEP and giving a voice to STEM women in our region. I focus more closely on developing the men and women within AAG with the help of our Business Support Manager, Cathy Hinsley who is another great female role model. We have shown our dedication to supporting women in the workplace through our actions – and we hope that by sharing our story it will encourage more companies to do the same."
How have you managed challenges and setbacks along the way?
I have learnt something from every challenge or setback in the past and have used that experience going forward. Learning from your own mistakes should not be underestimated and there is nothing like the cold light of a new day to give perspective on a challenging situation.
What are your top tips for a successful work-life balance?
Switch off - your mind and your email! The world will not implode because you didn't respond to an email at 10am on Sunday. Be passionate about interests outside of work. Give your absolute all during the working day - then you won't feel guilty for switching off - you will feel like you deserve it.
Kate Wood, Head of Knowledge, Culture and Office Experience at Chess ICT, awarded The Times 2nd Best Company to Work For in 2017, has been working with Women to Work on an Empowering Women programme. Kate commented: “I think what AAG have done is fantastic and the ladies there are certainly great real role models for other women in technology and business in general.
At Chess we know that women don’t put themselves forward for things, we know we need all our women to be a little bit more courageous. This isn’t a Chess issue it’s a global issue. At Chess we want all our women to maximise their potential, whatever that means to them in their career. By working with Women to Work and the bespoke programme that Jenny and Emma have created for us we have been able to start to empower our women. Off the back of the programme we have already improved our maternity and paternity offering and created parent champions to support our people.”
To see what some of the women at Chess ICT have to say about the Empowering Women Programme click here to watch a short video.
Jenny Pollock, Women to Work Founder & Coach commented: “Myself and Emma set up Women to Work after a conversation about the unfulfilled potential we saw all around us, bright, capable, motivated women who were struggling to meet their potential for a variety of reasons. Since then we have met many inspiring women and have done lots of research to understand the issues facing women in the workplace. Many significant factors have come to light that continue to inform our work and the programmes we develop, such as women not putting themselves forward for senior roles until they've ticked 90% of the job spec criteria, or elements being missed because women weren’t involved in the decision or design process, and greater gender diversity in senior teams corresponding to improved financial performance. Sharing inspiring stories such as AAG's story is a powerful and positive way to role model female success and empower others to put themselves forward, creating organisations that we believe, will benefit from diverse thinking, perform better and be a better place to work for everyone.”
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