Woking Women in Business

A SELL-OUT Woking Women in Business Conference ended in general agreement on the gradual progress over gender inequality and cited the biggest challenge today as the pressure of competition in the workplace, especially for young people.

SPEAKERS’ CORNER – (from left) Liz Pocknell, Marian Imrie, Helen Goatley, Danusia Jolliffe and Richard Field

The conference, which included a few men in the audience, took inspiration from the three speakers, led by Helen Goatley, chairman of Barlow Robbins, whose law firm hosted the event for Woking Chamber of Commerce. She was joined by Marian Imrie, chief executive of Woking & Sam Beare Hospices, and Liz Pocknell, awarded the title of Woking’s Eminent Citizen 2019.

They all felt that the issues were becoming less about gender and agreed with Marian, who reflected that the bigger issue is more about “the huge competition for jobs that all young people now face”.

Danusia, marketing manager at TVision Technology, leads the Q&A session

Each recalled the early days of their careers in the 70s and 80s in male-dominated environments and felt that gender is now less of an issue, but it does not appear to have been an obstacle for any of them.

Yet Helen, a specialist in catastrophic injury litigation, describing a steady and successful career, said her two children, now 20 and 18, were her greatest achievement, which resonated with many in the room, as did some of the challenges she described around motherhood.

These included juggling part-time work and childcare but she admitted that she was fortunate that she had business partners, colleagues and a husband who were all supportive.

In common with the other speakers, and many women, she admitted a tendency to doubt her competence for a role and advised women to listen to a male perspective. “Speak to the blokes,” she said.

RECOGNITION – Liz holds up her Woking’s Eminent Citizen award

Marian, who has worked within healthcare for 45 years, said that the gender issue is less evident in this sector and felt that generally the working environment is far more fluid today. “It is much more about what skills you can bring.”

While she felt there are fewer barriers for women, she said: “It’s still a fact that women have children and go off on leave. You can’t legislate or penalise for the fact that this means there is a kind of undercurrent that affects women. They get overtaken just because men continue in the business and stuff happens. It’s inevitable and I don’t know what to do about that.”

Liz runs her own business, CV Technic. Describing herself as “a complete geek”, she is a Microsoft Word expert and was given her Eminent Citizen title for her work as district commissioner of Woking Scouts.

She spoke about carving out a career that began when she qualified as a chartered electrical engineer in the 70s, studying as the only girl among 90 male students.

Richard Field, vice president of Woking Chamber of Commerce, said: “The three speakers were very inspirational and encouraging. From a bloke’s point of view I could not disagree with anything they said.”

For the full story get the 30 January edition of the News & Mail

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