In celebration of International Women’s Day 2021, this week we will be sharing a number of interviews with some of our female employees. In our second interview, we sat down with Kerry Matthewman, Head of People & Culture, here at Add People. We asked her five questions surrounding gender equality in the workplace, and issues in the wider world. Here are her responses:
1. What does the International Women’s Day slogan ‘#ChooseToChallenge’ mean to you?
The underlying theme is about bringing about change, challenging, and calling out gender bias and inequality – working towards creating an inclusive world. It’s also a great platform to celebrate women’s achievements.
2. Why did you choose to work in Human Resources?
After graduating I dipped my toe into a few different roles and sectors. Fresh out of university, one of my first interviews for a Personal Assistant role in the manufacturing sector, led to me being asked “Are you planning on having children anytime soon”…Naively I answered the question, probably along the lines of “No, I’m only 21 I don’t plan on having children just yet”.
After studying for a degree in Business & Tourism, I decided I might like to work on the airlines as Cabin Crew. I recall the selection process being highly biased towards physical attributes. Part of our induction training included ruling out ombre/two-toned hair colouring of any sort. Again, early on I was managed by a gentleman who was just totally inappropriate, constant sexist remarks. These experiences made me feel somewhat uneasy, and question things – to think about what I would do differently if involved in recruiting and interviewing people.
I also worked for a Training Provider, finding young people with learning difficulties and ex-offenders work placements. I got huge satisfaction from getting people back into work and seeing them being given an opportunity in the right job and company. It could be life-changing for them. And all this was just in my early twenties! It made me realise what I liked/disliked, what motivated me: I wanted to support people, and make a difference.
3. What barriers have you faced as a woman in becoming successful in your field?
I’m lucky that I have worked at some great workplaces and had great mentors along the way. I’ve been fully supported, able to have a successful career, two amazing children, and maintain a work-life balance. I cannot say I have faced any real barriers as a woman. Whilst working in any company – if the culture fit wasn’t there, I would choose to move on voluntarily.
4. What do you think is the biggest issue today facing women in the workplace?
There is a mix of issues. Some being gender stereotypes, gender pay gaps, pregnancy discrimination, sexual harassment – it’s not a level playing field.
5. Based on your own experience, what advice would you give to women considering pursuing a career in your field?
Regardless of sex, if you don’t have a genuine and real concern for others, then HR is not for you. It’s about the PEOPLE, building relationships, being trusted, and staying in touch with the issues and concerns of others.