“We need to challenge when inequalities exist”: Sandwell business leaders talk about their experiences for International Women’s Day

For this year’s International Women’s Day (Sunday 8 March), three business leaders in Sandwell have revealed the barriers they faced as women in the workplace, and how they overcame them.

Sig saying 'gender equality'Elaine Bruce, Sanjeev Gill and Chris Hinson are Sandwell Business Ambassadors, putting them among the elite of the Black Country business community. Each has achieved excellence in her own career, making time each month to support other Sandwell businesses through the Sandwell Business Ambassadors programme.

The theme for International Women’s Day 2020 is #EachForEqual – encouraging everyone to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women’s achievements. As business leaders, Elaine, Sanjeev and Chris have much to say about their experiences of gender inequality.

In three interviews published at www.sandwellbusinessambassadors.co.uk the Ambassadors talk about early experiences of sexism in male-dominated workplaces, how they challenge discrimination, and what they believe needs to happen to improve the career plight of girls and women.

“The opportunities starting out are improving for women, and in the early stages men and women are relatively equal,” said Elaine, who is finance director at manufacturing giant H&R ChemPharm. “But we need more high-profile senior female leaders for girls to aspire to, and these female leaders need to engage with the younger generation, showing that the higher echelons are not a male-only domain.

“This engagement should be with boys and girls, so it is seen by all children as a norm.”

Chris emphasised the importance of strong workplace polices.

“We need to ensure that all companies, regardless of their size and sector, have – and enforce – relevant policies on recruitment, equal pay and discrimination. We need to challenge when inequalities exist and encourage management to find solutions to the difficult questions,” she said.

In the interviews, Elaine reveals why she has never worn a skirt to work since her early experiences in manufacturing – but why she would also support another woman to wear anything ‘work-appropriate’.

Sanjeev talks about being a mother to boys and the importance of inspiring the next generation through education and role modelling.

Chris explains what it was like to be a woman in IT in the early 1990s, when it was clear that people were expecting to meet a male Chris, not a female one.

All three have encountered sexism and inequality, but all three share their personal ways of overcoming adversity. They also offer insightful suggestions for improving the prospects of women and girls in the workplace.

The interviews are published at https://www.sandwellbusinessambassadors.co.uk/news/. Happy International Women’s Day 2020.