On International Women’s Day 2019, Cathy Wells, HR Director at Gi Group UK talks about her experience as a woman working within HR and the misconceptions surrounding female leaders.

I have worked within HR for nearly 24 years and until recently I only ever had one female boss. Just one, in 24 years in my career. This is a particularly worrying fact given that when you look around at the HR profession, the majority of practitioners are female.  They just all seem to all be stuck under what we used to call ‘the Glass Ceiling.’

So, when I first started working for this particular female HR Director, I was in all honesty a little apprehensive. “What would she be like? Would she be a stereotypical female in a position of power, all moody and aggressive to prove herself in this perceived man’s world? Would she like me? Would she treat me differently? Would she see me as a threat as a young graduate, keen to progress?” I would never have even thought of those things had I been working for a man. It made me question my perceptions. As it turned out, she was amazing. I only worked for her for 2 short years but in that time, I learned more than I had done in my two previous roles. Her name is Linda Booth, and I am still lucky enough to have her on my ‘phone a friend’ list if I’m stuck!

There is a phenomenon known as Impostor Syndrome which is more common in women than men. It is: “the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills” and I think that this was something I had unconsciously been affected by. Linda helped me to see past this. She empowered me to make decisions (and mistakes!) and to learn from them, to develop and to realise that being good at what you do isn’t about comparing yourself to others. She inspired me.

Thankfully things are changing, albeit slowly. If I look around Gi Group UK, not only do we have a female CEO, but we also have many strong females in key positions.