This year in the UK, we celebrate 100 years since (some) British women were given the right to vote. The suffragettes campaigned long and hard for equality, pathing the way for future generations. In February 1918, the Representation of the People Act was adopted. One hundred years later, we are celebrating and reflecting on the progress and achievements made for equality, while embracing the significant challenges that remain and are still faced internationally.
At SCD, we strongly believe in women empowering women, and to celebrate the marking of 100 years since the beginning of suffrage for women in the UK, we are launching a monthly blog series in which we will interview inspirational women.
To kickstart our Empowering Women series, we spoke to Caroline Morris, Director of Wide Eyed Group. After a long career in data and technology businesses – building countless databases, programs and interfaces – Caroline now works with business leaders and their teams, mentoring and coaching them to achieve their full potential. She uncovers what’s really going on beneath the surface of a business and sets them back on track.
- What motivated you and inspired you to start your own business?
A desire and passion to help people to achieve everything and more than what they believe they can.
- What challenges have you faced during your career?
As a female working in STEM for 20 years, I have had both joyous moments and challenging ones. Initially, it was being taken seriously: when I was working for a data consultancy in the late 1990s, I was the only woman. Some of our clients were very traditional and did not believe I was up to the job. I had to prove myself and be better than my colleagues, who were brilliant – it was tough!
Often, when I would support sales during a pitch, the client would say “I thought you were brining someone technical” – they assumed I was a sales person, rather than the technical person. I noticed that once I showed them I know my stuff then they were bought into me and the organization. It was a great experience to see the value of sometimes breaking down those unconscious biases that we all have.
- What are the biggest challenges for women in leadership roles?
Realizing we deserve to be heard, that we have something very important to say and that our male colleagues are just as challenged as we are – they are just faking it better!
It can be difficult to join the conversation. I recommend that we support each other, helping each other practice being heard and, when in meetings with each other, backing each other up.
- Do you have any advice for female professionals currently in or pursuing a leadership role?
Don’t try and do it on your own. Develop relationships with both female and male colleagues, develop your own network (your own ‘boys club’ equivalent). Find a female mentor and consider getting yourself a coach.
- What’s one leadership lesson you’ve learned in your career?
You can’t do it alone, and in fact the beauty of leading a team is that there are a lot of you to get things going!
- What are the best ways to empower women?
Support each other. If you are the only woman on the board, find other women to join you. In the past I have noticed that it is almost seen as competitive to have a second woman vying for the only ‘female’ spot. Until we are represented, we cannot truly be heard. One woman on a board or in a team is not enough.
Support the women in your business, sponsor them, promote them. Do what your male colleagues are doing for their younger male counterparts. And do it for any men that you see have potential. In fact, the more we can equally support the next-generation leaders, the less likely we are to have backlash about ‘positive’ discrimination. It is equality we need to achieve.
- Who is your female inspiration?
Just about every woman I have worked with. I started my career working with wonderful men and have since been privileged to work with both women and men. I have gained a lot of inspiration working with women in networking and believe that we have a wonderful ability to support and help each other.
- What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
You are right. (I wanted to work in tech and not the more ‘traditional female’ roles.)
- One goal you hope to achieve in 2018?
Greater visibility, speaking more at events for both women and men.
- How do you ensure you switch off from work mode in your spare time?
Some of this is my passion so I’m not sure I switch it off. I do love reading, I immerse myself in my books. I enjoy walking and running, which is a treat; I live in Bristol, which is a beautiful place to be in. And I have a wonderful group of people in my life who keep me balanced!
Find out more about Caroline and the Wide Eyed Group at www.wideeyedgroup.com