Wendy Holt is a gender diversity champion, and founder of Woobe, a careers and networking platform dedicated to supporting women that advocates for gender equality in the workplace. Here, she talks to us about her own experiences working in a traditionally male dominated industry, her passion for gender diversity, and how she hopes Woobe’s visions and missions will change gender diversity and parity among the workplace, forever.
What is your background, and did it contribute to creating Woobe?
I worked in the city for a well-known stockbroking giant, a tough and traditionally male dominated industry, and loved my role within the back-office handling different investments. After a few years working there I was head-hunted to become part of a very select team of experts, to help set up the first ever UK online stockbrokers.
Here, I was the head of the UK equity settlements team and was one of only 3 senior women involved with the venture from the very beginning.
After the company was successfully set up and sold on, it felt like time to do something completely different. My husband and I set up our own talent acquisition company, where I had the opportunity to work in many, different business sectors.
I particularly enjoyed working with high-tech start-up companies, assuming that this modern and advanced sector would be much more gender equal than what I had become accustomed to in stockbroking. I couldn’t have been more wrong!
It soon became clear to me that the lack of gender diversity and parity, which I had witnessed first-hand in the city, was a much, much bigger issue! I knew I wanted to do more, and more could be done to help women find work in ALL areas of employment at ALL levels.
So, I set up Woobe.
Tell us about Woobe.
Woobe is a platform dedicated to providing women with career and networking opportunities in all industries, at all levels of employment, with a simple mission – to encourage, support and promote gender diversity and parity in UK workplaces. In real terms, this will involve working towards the day when women are equally represented in all industries at all levels, and receive the same working conditions, opportunities, and pay as their male counterparts.
We want to help women find great roles with gender diverse supporting employers, help companies of all sizes recruit and retain female talent, and provide our members with lots of career and networking tools. Woobe gives women a free and supportive careers and networking platform to work from.
Why is Woobe important?
I started Woobe for several reasons.
Firstly, so much more needs to be done to encourage, support, and promote women into roles within all industries, at all levels, and all the independent reports confirm this.
We are now in the 21st century, and the elephant in the room, while acknowledged, has not been seriously addressed. Statistics on gender equality make for an unsettling read, with the Global Gender Gap Report 2020 from WEF finding that gender parity is unlikely to be achieved for another 99.5 years. The UK has also slipped down 6 places in the global rankings for gender equality, going from 15th to 21st position, and is ranked behind several less well-developed countries like Nicaragua and Namibia. As a member of the G-7 you would think the UK could do a lot better than this!
While there are individual career networking groups out there, not least the giant that is LinkedIn, there is no uplifting, inspiring and positive space for women to join, support each other, and receive free support both from employers and peers. Well, there is now!
Providing women with a positive and dedicated platform, which supports gender equality, sends a clear message. We want gender diversity and parity to become the working rule and not the exception.
What will Woobe help achieve?
My hope is that Woobe will become the UK’s biggest and most powerful careers advice platform for women, helping to highlight the importance of gender diversity and gender parity within the workplace, both for the women of today and for the daughters of tomorrow.
We all want to ensure our children have brighter futures. By giving them the same opportunities to explore all careers at all levels with all the same benefits we will achieve this.
How does Woobe work?
It is really simple.
Woobe is totally free to join. We do not take, need or want payment. It is a supportive community built on a very important message.
We want our members to use the career and networking tools provided and be actively involved with the Woobe community. We welcome your contributions and support for other members.
Have you ever encountered gender discrimination in the workplace?
Of course. I think most women have in some shape or form. But dwelling on the past has done little to move the issue forward, so I prefer to think and talk about the positive actions we can all take now to address gender equality issues in the workplace and move onwards and upwards.
Do you talk to your children about gender equality?
I live in a household full of males (even the dog is a boy) and they are all very aware of gender diversity and gender parity – though I am not sure how much the dog understands!
For my children, it is as simple as understanding the importance of everyone being treated fairly and equally. My youngest son, who has just started secondary school, can identify gender stereotyping and discrimination in films, on TV and in the papers. Being able to recognise these issues is the first step towards challenging and changing them, and he proudly points things out to me, which makes me immensely proud in return.
Talking openly about gender equality with children and young people is the way forward, as is letting them know we all have a part to play in changing the status quo and ensuring everyone has a better and brighter future.
What can both women and men do to address this issue?
Positive action is the only way forward. We do not need to point the finger of blame but at the same time we should not bury our heads in the sand.
We all have a part to play in changing the current situation and ensuring a brighter future for everyone. We need to be honest with ourselves and ask what more could I do, as an individual, as an employer and just as important, as a parent!
Join Woobe today and start to make a difference!