Sue Gibson talks us through her career, her thoughts on gender diversity, and why she is joining Woobe, the UK’s premier platform for equal treatment of women in the workplace.
Hi Sue, thanks for talking to us. Can we start by finding out a little about your professional background?
Of course – thanks for having me.
My career in HR started with a role at Asda, which involved opening a new store, a stretch for anyone at the start of their working life.
I was based in and around Southeast London and worked with diverse teams from the beginning. I had some great mentors within the HR and learning and development team who were passionate about creating equal opportunities for excellence. This ethos has stayed with me throughout my working life. My last role with Asda involved managing a team of 12, providing support for talent development and HR advice to the teams within the 20 stores through the regional HR structure.
On moving to Cambridge, I had some great opportunities to work in tech, a traditional male dominated industry, both in technical consultancies, new start-ups, spin outs and in the provision of global HR services.
Being a proactive person, I am heavily involved in the HR community. I have a great platform upon which to champion finding talented women to fill tech roles – particularly great female engineers, who are in high demand and short supply.
I believe we need to start talking about careers, and equal opportunities, at an earlier stage, making male dominated sectors like technology more exciting and accessible for girls.
How much experience have you had with dealing with gender diversity in the workplace?
From an early start at ASDA, I saw a division in the balance of men and women across the company, with a largely female workforce in the stores, and a largely male presence in the distribution/warehouse sector. I found this interesting and challenging and have worked towards making teams more inclusive across all areas in all the roles I have taken on.
I am currently working on setting up a diversity and inclusion group at an organisation that really wants to ensure diversity and inclusion takes centre stage within their workforce. For example, piloting reverse mentoring is just one inclusion platform we have introduced.
Gender equality has always been an issue in the workplace, but in recent times, it has become discussed more widely and openly. With my HR experience I can certainly contribute to the conversation and do my bit to ensure that opportunities are as widely available to both genders as possible.
As I have already touched upon, I believe that this should start at primary school, with children being encouraged to discuss gender diversity and career stereotypes. Your sex really should not be an issue when thinking about what you want to do with your life, but not everyone is given good sound career advice.
Why do you think gender diversity is still such a big issue in the UK and the world?
Gosh – this is a big question!
It impacts so many people, in so many ways, and is such a complex issue with many facets – certainly not one that can be resolved overnight. We must start from where we are.
In the UK, we have to accept that we still have a long way to go in this area, with the recent 2020 Gender Pay Gap report highlighting that equal pay is still a major issue for women in the workplace, along with things like flexible working, and equal opportunities to progress and be promoted.
It would be nice to think that, with everything men and women have been through together over the last 18 months (i.e. the Covid-19 pandemic), recognising and striving for equality would be a priority. Sadly, I don’t think this will be the case.
Home-schooling and caring for young children and sick relatives has fallen largely on the female population and, in many cases, they have not received any additional support or acknowledgement from their employer to help manage this situation. Juggling full-time (or even part-time) jobs and home life through Covid has taken its toll on women’s mental health, and has adversely affected many women’s career prospects. It is a sad situation, but a talking point that we can use to raise awareness and support for the issues involved.
Why do you believe Woobe’s positive approach to dealing with gender diversity will make a difference?
There are other forums out there that offer advice, but many of these must be paid for, which excludes women on lower incomes. As it is free, Woobe really is accessible to all.
Woobe gives women a focus and a meeting place to discuss issues affecting them in the workplace, gather information and support, find job opportunities, and meet really amazing mentors.
There are some great people on the platform, and some excellent advice. It is a real community, and the fact that men can join and contribute is great too.
Why are you joining the Woobe team, and what do you hope to bring to the table?
Wendy is passionate about her goal to provide the opportunity for connections and networks for all women at work, on a platform committed to championing gender equality without apology, but with intelligence and sensitivity.
I am excited about being involved from the beginning and working alongside Wendy, who is inspirational in her drive to get this up and running. I cannot wait to become part of the Woobe team; it is a really inclusive, safe place for women to join together.
What do you think members will gain from using the Woobe platform?
I hope that they will see it as a community that gives them true freedom and opportunity to develop in their careers. Women will not only benefit from Woobe but are invited to contribute and help others using the platform, sharing advice and knowledge. Woobe wants and welcomes this.
The platform offers endless ideas for connections and networking as well as a place to find your next career opportunity.
I hope that Woobe will also go on to give people a voice to raise the issues through the ranks of politics to affect change – that would be fantastic!