In light of Women’s History Month, three members of staff at Fletchers Solicitors have spoken out about their experiences with sexism in the workplace, as well as personal triumphs and battles that they’ve faced in the course of their careers.
As a woman and a mother, Gillian Carlisle Collett, Head of Operations, opened up about some of the barriers she’s faced within her career:
“My first partnership was withdrawn when news of my first pregnancy became public knowledge. I took it on the chin and did not make a fuss, I just worked harder to prove myself again. Retrospect is a wonderful thing and I would have approached this very differently as the older and wiser woman I now am, who also feels hugely supported by other females.”
“The other huge barrier was none working mothers who disapproved of me as a working mother. I was shunned in the playground. Thankfully a change in schools saw a change in mothers and whilst many of them were also none-working, these wonderful women offered support, not derision and changed my life – and they are all still dear friends.”
Gillian also cited an instance where she challenged misogyny within the workplace, detailing a situation in which her female colleague was asked to take minutes purely due to the fact that she was a woman:
“As the Board meeting started it was evident the PA was off ill, immediately the three senior male members of the Board turned to my colleague as the only other female in the room and on auto pilot said verbally “Please can you take the minutes today” none verbally stating “it is a woman’s role to take the minutes”. I halted the meeting and challenged the request and the rationale of the request.”
“I am pleased to state that she did not take the minutes and that the COO apologised thereafter. My colleague also expressed gratitude post meet as she openly stated she would have just done it.”
Lorna Bailey, Head of Learning and Development, also recalled tales of sexism in the workplace and being conscious of her gender and age:
“I have experienced sexism in the past, the most obvious being when I didn’t get a job in a male dominated office, as the male hiring manager told me ‘I would be a distraction for the lads’.”
“Starting out as a young manager of a department, I was very conscious of my gender and age. I felt I had to work even harder to prove myself and justify my position. I have always had male managers and been very lucky to have had amazing support from them with any sexism I have faced.
Sharing her advice, Lorna added:
“My advice to any young female in business would be to have confidence, try not to doubt yourself and don’t change to fit in with what you think is expected of you. Men can be great allies and fight gender inequality alongside women, my amazing husband being one of them.”
Senior Solicitor, Hannah Luscombe, explains that the biggest barrier she has had to overcome as a woman was fear of failure:
“There are many studies which show a fear of failure is significantly more prevalent in women than men and that such fears can impact their career development and decisions, presenting a barrier to women.”
“As a perfectionist combined with a legal education that included learning about case law where things have often gone wrong and examples of solicitors being “struck off”, I started out in practice with a relentless fear of making a mistake. I was convinced that if I made any mistake, that my career in law would be over. However, it is inevitable that mistakes are made – we are all human – and nobody is immune from failing at some point”.
“I have personally learned that failing is a key part of success, personal growth, and progression. My mentor at Fletchers Solicitors once told me that if you never make a mistake, then you are not moving forwards or pushing yourself enough, which really helped me change my outlook on failure.”