Laura Carter, our Employer Liaison Officer, reflects on what was discussed at the Women Leaders Panel event and advice for a female graduate entering the workplace…
On Monday 7th November, Careers & Employability ran the Women Leaders panel event to encourage female students to consider themselves as future leaders in whatever profession they may choose to enter.
Acknowledging that a panel celebrating and encouraging women in leadership was ironically taking place in a venue featuring portraits of all male figures, the room was decorated with a few female portraits; namely images of notable famous and influential women from different backgrounds, including Michelle Obama, J.K. Rowling, Beyoncé, Malala Yousafazi and the UK’s first female professor (who was based at Cardiff University) – Millicent Mackenzie.
For the panel itself, we welcomed six influential women from different industries and sectors to share their experiences:
Alys Carlton – Partner, Corporate at Capital Law
Stacey Fordham – Social Media Entrepreneur at That Cardiff Girl and Former Head of Social for S3 Advertising
Andrea Green – Project Manager for Costain Group Sarah Jones – Head of Marketing for Acorn Recruitment
Lauren Moss – Director at PwC
Tehreem Sheikh – Director at Hire STEM Women
Each of the speakers spoke about their background, their current career path and obstacles they have faced and then answered questions from the audience. Below, we’ve picked out their top tips for you.
The importance of gaining experience was stressed by all the women on the panel. Make the most of every opportunity presented to you, both by employers and also what’s being offered by Careers & Employability and the Students’ Union. It doesn’t matter if you have a fixed career in mind or not, getting experience is the key stepping stone to finding out what you may or may not enjoy. For example, many graduate schemes offer rotational placements that allow you to experience all aspects of an organisation.
Dealing with doubt and celebrating your own achievements
Whatever stage you are in life, whether at university or already on the career ladder, it’s important to recognise your successes every step of the way. ‘Imposter Syndrome’ is a feeling that many professional women share. All the panellists said that at some point during their career journeys they felt they were a ‘fraud’ who was about to be exposed for ‘not being good enough’.
Certain industries have traditionally been less receptive to women and some panellists spoke of the direct discrimination they had experienced and being questioned about their own capabilities. Others spoke about being interrupted and talked over in meetings and other forms of indirect sexism. In order to succeed, you shouldn’t feel like you have to ‘act like a man’, but not to be afraid of standing up for yourself and working with other women (and men) as allies.
Putting your wellbeing first
Whilst panellists acknowledged that there’s no such thing as a stress-free job, there are steps you can take in order to look after your wellbeing. Participating in exercise and sport was recommended as an effective way to deal with stress and support your mental health. Panellists also suggested dressing for work in a way that makes you feel both confident, professional and happy and not just meeting the expectations of others. Surrounding yourself with supportive people and ensuring you have a balanced social life is also enormously beneficial so you don’t feel isolated or alone.
Learning from ‘failure’ and obstacles
The panellists all spoke about dealing with ‘failure’ and using challenges in a positive way. From getting bad A Level grades, to being made redundant at 22, to having a ‘quarter life crisis’ about your chosen career – personal experiences that seem like a complete setback at the time do not and should not let you from being able to progress and excel. The main piece of advice was to look at your career as a marathon not a sprint and realise that change and obstacles will form part of your journey.
If you attended the event or would like to share your thoughts or advice for other women students please tweet us @cardiffcareers using the hashtag #womenleaders.
Our next Leaders panel events will be taking place next semester and will be looking at BAME Leaders and Leaders with Disabilities. More information about these events will be coming soon.
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Laura, Employer Liaison Officer, Careers & Employability Team.
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