To celebrate International Women’s Day 2019, we interviewed some of our senior women to discuss their careers. In this interview, we talk to Caro Ruttledge.
Caro is 39 and from Australia. She joined Gate One in January 2017 and was recently promoted to Client Director. She’s a champion of Women In Business, she recently met an icon, Julia Gillard (former Australian Prime Minister) and she feels strongly about maintaining the momentum of change in gender equality.
1. What would be one piece of advice you’d give someone who is beginning their career journey?
Be clear on what is important to you and what your career ‘compromises’ are. Learn to flex and move forward positively in the face of challenge – but equally, learn how to stand strong in your own agency when the situation is unreasonable… and potentially most difficult, try to learn the difference between the two! To help navigate the challenges, surround yourself with positive, smart people that you can learn from – whether they’re team members, bosses, stakeholders or mentors. Lean in, lean out – neither option is perfect; just be authentic!
2. What do you think are the key challenges facing women in the workforce today?
This differs by country and industry; in the UK (and Australia, where I’m from!), there have been strong debates, detailed research and varying attempts to improve the Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) and equality agenda across different organisations. Great progress has occurred in certain areas (improved flexible working policies, higher per cent of females in leadership roles, greater emphasis on paternity leave etc.), but I think on too many fronts progress has plateaued, often given uncertainty about what to tackle next – eg unconscious bias, institutionalised discrimination and/or microaggressions.
3. How do you think we can advance gender equality?
Address the root causes, not just the symptoms. Understand that the situation needs persistent, research-backed (and innovative) solutions to transform away from old biases, inadequate policy infrastructure, and ineffective cultural norms/ways of working. I also think it takes a focus on equalising policy/expectations across the whole population – this isn’t just about getting more women in leadership roles, it’s also about providing men with better policies/culture to encourage parental leave etc. – it’s about fostering a greater sense of equality for everyone.
4. Have you noticed a change in the challenges that women face throughout the span of your career?
Absolutely – and I think it depends a lot on the stage of your career. When entering a career inequality tends to be less pronounced – a lot of women assume they’re starting off on an even playing field and approach their career accordingly. From what I’ve witnessed – and what the research says – the challenges for equality become tougher as women (and men) progress into the middle stages of their career. Expectations on parental leave differ across the genders, availability of suitable part-time roles to support career progression can be limited, and unconscious (or conscious!) bias impacts promotion choices. Where the discrimination is overt many individuals self-select out of a toxic environment; in other situations, women may make compromises to best fit in to the environment around them. Often in the latter stages of a career, women (and men) have worked out the right approach and culture for themselves and are more able to unapologetically strive for what makes them happy and enjoy the resulting career success.