I realised as I sat down to write this blog that it has been eighteen years this week since I joined Praxis, fresh from a career break and five years spent caring for my two daughters.
I was so fortunate to have been able to devote myself to that special pre-school period with them and I think it is true to say that I learned and honed many skills whilst being a full-time mum – not least prioritisation, time management and efficiency, multi-tasking, creative thinking, understanding people’s motivations… and negotiation!
And so began the next phase of my working life. I remember being seriously impressed when I first joined Praxis, where I was a one-woman band, managing a national programme hosted then by the University of Cambridge, based in a team where two Heads of the Legal Department job-shared! I couldn’t imagine that in any of my previous corporate-based roles (largely in sales and marketing focussed and male-dominated environments) such a thing would have been taken seriously. Working in an academic environment was certainly a refreshing change in so many ways.
In my interactions with hundreds of expert KE practitioner volunteers over the years at Praxis, PraxisUnico and now PraxisAuril, I have been privileged to work with many bright, dynamic, engaging, successful women – fantastic role models at work and at home - and I have rarely encountered any barriers on the basis of my gender, (well except those I create myself, of course)!
I remember attending an immersive Leadership training course at a well-known management school almost ten years ago and being somewhat relieved when I realised that there were in fact many different leadership styles to aspire to and that a compassionate, calm and people-focussed approach was perfectly valid and valuable – and likely to be just as if not more successful, certainly in some environments - as those corporate caricatures of the late 1980s and 90s, which I grew up with.
It is really encouraging to see more female leaders stepping up to senior volunteer roles with PraxisAuril on our Board and as trainers and role models on our professional development programmes – and there is almost an equal number of men and women participating in the PraxisAuril Directors’ discussion group these days, which is progress indeed. Ensuring that we have enough women up on stage at PraxisAuril events can be challenging at times – but we are getting there and I hope that over the coming weeks and months - and through initiatives like International Women’s Day - more and more people will feel empowered to come forward.
I feel a deep responsibility to use my experience and my position with PraxisAuril to support other women to feel confident in their ability to contribute - and to provide a safe platform for their voice to be heard. The digital environment is providing new opportunities for improved accessibility to the programmes and services PraxisAuril offers. Enabling conversations and the sharing of experiences and new initiatives in the area of diversity and inclusion is a good starting point I think, and we are planning to convene a conversation or two via the PraxisAuril online discussion forum in the coming weeks, to inform a session that we will run at our June conference this year. I hope that you will feel able to join us.
With thanks to all those who have inspired, encouraged and supported me over the years – you know who you are!
Written in celebration of International Women's Day 2021 for the PraxisAuril blog series - Women in Innovation