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Recruitment as a Career
 min read

[VIDEO] Navigating Your Career as a Woman in Recruitment.

On our newest episode of 'What's in the Pipeline?' our Head of People Ashleigh Hamilton and our two guests Megan Chudley and Natalie Winterton, discuss what it's like navigating a career as a woman in recruitment in line with International Women's Day.


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Full transcript:


Welcome back to What's in the Pipeline. I'm your host, Ashleigh.
And in today's episode, we're going to be discussing how to navigate your career in recruitment as a woman.

This conversation is especially important in our industry. A recent study found that almost a third of recruitment firms have less than 5% of females at a board level.

And it's also important to highlight and recognise that in this conversation we are discussing the lived experiences of two cis women.

However, we also recognise and advocate for all of those identified as women.

So a warm welcome to our two guests today. We have Meg, who is an Associate Director here atFew&Far.

Welcome back.




And we have Natalie who is a senior talent partner, building our In-House function. Welcome both of you.

Thank you.

Nice to be here.

Good to have you here and
discussing such an important topic.
And so let's dive in. And I'm interested to go right way back to when both of your careers in recruitment first started and to ask the question around perception.

What was both your perception when joining and starting out a career in recruitment?
Meg, let’s start with you.

Taking it back. Making me feel really old.

My my perception at the time. So I was still at university. My brother worked in recruitment. Um, really all that. All I knew was it was just perceived as men in suits. The phone pretty much sellotaped to your head it was all about making money. Spending that money on boozing
boiler room, kind of like environment. At the time, I'd say.





Yeah. I mean, I didn't really have that much of a perception coming into the industry. I think that my main like data points
then knowing what it was, I was being on the other side of the fence as a candidate. and I signed up to Office Angels in Stains, shoutout.

And it was a really wonderful experience. And it was so, you know, female dominated and female led and I thought great, is kind of what all recruitment agencies must be like. And then I very quickly found out that that wasn't the case through going to others to try to find new roles. So it was a bit of a crash
down to reality. So I wasn't quite sure what to make of it myself. And I felt the only way to really get an understanding
was to go and do it and find out.


So now let's talk about perception vs reality. So Meg, your perception was that of starting out. How was it and how has it been navigating your career?


Everyone says this in recruitment ‘a bit of a rollercoaster’, but now like a perception now. I mean, I'm now in a leadership level role. I am woman. I do not wear a suit. So very much feel like proud that I've kind of broken the perception that I had and that the industry has, a perception of breaking the stereotype. So, yes, it's been an interesting ride, but it's all good now, I think majorly improved.

How about you? Natalie, perception vs reality for recruitment.

Yeah. I mean, as I mentioned, there’s points where I was proven right and proven wrong about the preconceptions of recruitment. You know, it's unfortunate having to go through and having to have those experiences to understand and get a wider perspective on how we can continue to support other people in this industry.

You know, women especially, I think where I stand right now, my experiences
have been more good than bad. So it's really it's really nice to be able to say that. But as I think a lot of people do know, one bad experience can outweigh so much.
And it really goes to show the amount of work that still really needs to be done in this industry to support not just women, although that's our kind of focal point for today, but all marginalized groups within that space.

So, you know, we have come far, but there is a lot further to go.

when it comes to creating an inclusive workspace for everyone. So you say some good and some bad keen to just dive into some of the bad and ask what particular challenges that you’ve faced.


Yeah, you know, I think looking back on it and not going too deep into subjects because I appreciate kind of trigger warning to some people that may be,
you know, listening to this, but, you know, a lot of misogyny, a lot of sexism.

And again, you know, it is really disappointing to see that that wasn't just for people in management spaces. That was also from individuals across the board in terms of seniority position. I think one thing that is quite pertinent to also look at is I have experienced quite a lot of women in senior management not offering support and guidance and mentorship in that space when they can. Now I can completely understand it's not everyone's space in a marginalized group to be that activist and some people just aren't able to be in the space to do that. But to see people who are really successful and potential role models not really embrace that space in any way that they can is really disappointing to see.

I'm really glad to be able to say here that we do have incredible role models, you know, like Megan, like yourself, where you can see women in senior positions who do strive to support others. But again, I think that was one of the most heartbreaking things for me to witness because we should be supporting each other and every way we can

Yeah, definitely. I guess that brings me to my next question and around role model mentorship.

What would you what advice would you give to somebody starting out in recruitment now.


My advice would be is as hard as it is, put yourself first. So again, like looking back, I wish I did so many things different, but I think it's important to protect your mental health over everything. That needs to be number one. And also, don't forget to speak up. Of course, for you to speak up like you just said, that needs to be that safe environment, safe space, which we have.

But a lot of companies don't. So it kind of depends like depends on what we've walked into. But ultimately, I just say know what's right and what's not. Put yourself first and get out If it's not the right place for you, just get out.

And what does that same space look like for you?

What is that platform that companies can give?


I'd say we do a pretty great job.

But I think where we have people people like yourself like we have various different committees of people you can come to, we’ve got MYNDUP, mental health first aid is here like you can just, there’s different people wherever you feel comfortable, to go and speak to people.

I'd also say from a like inclusion point of view and not to discriminate against e.g. women, like we have transparent pay, like we have skill based promotion. So it's not just you know, you know, it's all clear. It's going to be the same. You showed me a statistic earlier where is was per £1. The male makes the women makes 81p.

That is not okay. So yeah, self plug on us. But I think we’ve definitely got a lot a lot of things right.


Yeah I think as  issue that recruitmentwhere the job isexactly the same and you're doing itat different levels and you're billing
exactly the same amount. Why should people be paid more just because they have negotiated that salary for themselves upon joining? Or, you know, gone to their manager or supervisor or whoever and, you know, pushed for themselves to get a pay rise.

If they’re billing the same amount and is that fact for them to see. Yeah. It is sad that companies do still pay different.


And I think people have to also realize that marginalized groups were already on the back foot so there can be conversations of frustration.

And you know just as you voice as well, why is this still happening? Why are we still in the space where this exist? Because if you're always
starting on the back foot, it's never really being able to catch up to that. And, you know, I think when we look at the term equity
and especially given, you know, International Women's Day coming up and, you know, given the fact that that's the theme for this year, it's even more pertinent to understand that some people have started from different places in life. Some people have different adjustments that they need.

And when you really look at creating that space for equality for everyone, it's understanding that each individual needs different things
to get them to where you want them to be.

And especially when we talk about that pay gap between women and men, it could be something like bringing in specific mentorship programs that actually target women and marginalized groups. You know, just one small thing. Or it could be all the way to ensuring
that you have a Trans Inclusionary Policy for trans women to come into your business and understand that they are heard and that they are wanted, that they are accepted. And it's about making those additional actions to then close that gap and making sure that they are consistent from that space onward.



I guess that's touching on the point of what businesses can do you, what would you say that fellow colleagues and workers could do to empower women in the workplace?


It's a huge question.

Firstly, if you're looking to align yourself with a group, don't stand there and just say I'm an ally because you read a book like it's great
you want to do that work, but the first thing that you need to do is understand what does that group need? You know, if I want to ally myself with women, you need to go and find the resources talk to the people that are comfortable and open speaking with you, because not everyone will be,
and not everyone has that energy within them to educate others.

But it's about going out. Allying yourself with that group, really understanding what they need, what would make the impact,and then it's doing the work.It's so great having that first stepand going and collectingthe information. But it justif it justsits there
and you don't do anything with it. That action is wasted.

So it's taking it and understanding how can I put this into action?

How can I continue doing the work? I said this to so many people, about, you know, yourself sitting in the seat that you do is so refreshing to really have someone that when I talk to you about struggles that I may be facing, I always see you putting it into action and you consistently consult with me as well.

So I know that my voice is being heard and represented in a way that I feel comfortable with whilst also having someone advocate for me.

So ultimately, just do what you do.

I appreciate it, thank you.
Meg, anything to add around what colleagues can do to empower women?


I think just speaking up like someone's made a comment that you know is not right or you see something that's not right. Maybe in in work, in the office, maybe it's like on the outside, like a social thing I think is important. You need to again, come to you or we have like anonymous feedback, right? Like you can give it on there as well. So I think it's important to yeah, to empower women. If you see something bad happening, you need to speak up about it again.

Relates to what Natalie just said about like actioning it. Actioning it, not just say like, Yeah, I'm going to stand for this, but actually do it and try and make change.


Yeah, yeah, definitely. Another question for you Meg.

You’ve spent the last couple of years, you know, throughout your career getting to a point where you were on a sales leadership team and you know, that can be challenging for women and especially if the rest of the leadership team, are male, which, you know, quite often we have seen in recruitment agencies.

What advice would you give to somebody that's been through or stepping into what you've been
for the last few years, getting there?

What have you learnt?  

It’s definitely not easy.

I have been in that scenario where it's all males. I'm the only woman. A quote you gave me recently Ash. Confidence is not always competence and I think you don't need to speak about every single thing. I think when you have an opinion, you need to make sure that you share it. Don't be afraid to. And when you have ideas, you need to speak up and talk about them as well.

And of course, if you're shut down by people, that makes it really tricky. But hence having an important space where we can feedback on these situations and somewhere like Few&Far who will actively look to improve that for for us.

So I think just letting your like I have this job for a reason because I've worked hard and I believe I'm good at what I do and so I think it's really important to like you are,

you deserve to be where you are. You’re there for a reason. Let your abilities and your skills shine through above all else. So yeah.


Great advice.
And Natalie for you. coming in and building something from scratch at senior level.
How is that experience going for you? and what advice would you give somebody in a similar position that you know will be bringing ideas to the table?

One of the biggest pieces of advice that has stuck with me. And it wasn't said to be that long ago, but by an incredible manager was

If there's not a seat at the table, grab one, drag it up and sit down. You know, there's not always going to be that perceived space for you. And I think for me, really recognizing that I'm here, I'm worthy, my abilities matter in this room and finding that gap and putting myself into it and growing within that space has been the biggest thing. So I would say that to anyone else considering or in that space like you're here, you matter and your opinions are a they deserve to be heard and you will find that space for yourself.

And I would definitely say looking at the team and the wider things that we do and the processes that we put into play, everything I do is with a lens of diversity, equity, inclusivity, belonging. You know, for me, everything that I do, every action I take is about understanding who will this impact, who is going to be involved in this, and how can I make sure that everyone has their own adjustments to get them to the place that they need to be within that.

What other practical tips do you have or would you give to make organizations more inclusive?


Listen to your people. Again, we spoke about this so much, but giving insights. That's when we talk about creating space. It is ensuring that that person knows that there will not be risk of harm or discrimination when they do open up, then doing the work. You know, this is not a goal to get to.

This is no box that we can say this is a never ending journey that we have to keep committing to as people, as companies.So once you have that information,once you have that wonderful resource,right there, it's nurturingand it's loving in and it's taking it,it's doing the action,it's showing, yeah, okay, we'regoing to go away and we're going to review our Trans Inclusionary Policy and then we're going to put this out. I'm going to make sure it's fit for purpose and then we'll look at it year on year. And it's to follow those patterns.I

It's like being in the seat that you're in as well. I'm sure that, you know, you would have seen that so much. And something that I love about working here is I always see you following up and doing the action and going that, not even that extra mile, but doing what needs to be done to make sure that I know when I come to you my voice has been heard and it's something that will come from that as well.


And yeah, I think just just at that point as well it's super super important to look at everything with an inclusive lens and make sure inclusion is weaved into everything rather than having it as a separate strategy. It has to be weaved into and looked at. That's the whole strategy.

What changes do you want to see?


I think off the back of  that pointagain relates back to that perceptionof recruitment companies
that I know, I know people working at. It's like social activities, right? That maybe they just they have just a football group. But that's not for everyone. Not all men either.

Like booze culture, you know, every event involves drinking.

And again, not everyone wants to do that, depending on religious reasons or just personal choice.

So, yeah, I think that as well, looking at your just general culture, what you do, how you treat, how you treat a staff and yeah having something for everyone which again we do well.


I think just on that point like we we've learnt a lot.

We aren't going to sit here and say we're an organization that from the get go had breakfast socials and you know Few&Fitness these are all things that have been introduced.

But you know we we were a company that was heavy on going out and celebrating in the pub and you know, putting money behind the bar to celebrate.

It was just it was kind of natural. But I think we've gone on a journey. And we’re still on a journey. We've by no means perfect, But yeah, as you say. That's a really important one. And people not drinking for religious reasons, but also people have commitments after work. They might be a carer they might have children. And might not be able to say past the time the day finishes.

So making sure that there’s an opportunity to get together isn't just outside of work as well and just drinking or just one sport you have to be good at to play because I wouldn't be able to do any of that.

I'd like to ask both of you, three things that you would tell your younger self when you were get into recruitment.


Okay, why have I got my eyes closed? Taking myself back.

Number one: look after your mental health, put that first 100%. Second thing and embrace your uniqueness like no one wants a robot, like you're unique for a reason. So I think definitely embraced that more.

And don't be afraid to speak up when you see something that's wrong. If you're told that that's right, when you know it's wrong, then like I said, you need you need to make a decision sooner on choosing somewhere to work that makes you happy.


Great. Great advice on the uniqueness point. No one's you and that's your power.


I love it.
I feel like I'm going to have to close my eyes. And ‘would you say to your younger self?’

My first piece would be that, you know, you are worthy of the space that you are in. You know, you might not feel it all of the time, but you are smart, you know, you know everyone's definition of what that might mean. But you, you are smart, and you are worthy of being in that space. And you've earnt that space.

The second piece to reiterate, the great advice I got from that manager is when you don't see a seat at the table, drag one up to make one for yourself, even on the days that you might feel tired and that you just can't. Do it, because you'll be paving the way for other people to do the same thing.

And that third piece is speak up when something isn't right. Again, very similar to your points Meg, like... There have been moments where I haven't spoken up for myself, where things have happened to me, and it's been easy to say nothing and it's been easier to stay silent. And I now look back at for me, the the standard I hold myself to now is that for me, I just don't feel it's okay. I have to speak up and speak openly and speak so often because the things that may have happened. Aren’t right.

You kind of have to just, even if you're tired, if you don't feel like you have the strength or the energy, you just have to do it because that can happen to someone else and they might not know where to go and they might not know where to turn.

But knowing that someone else has gone through that experience could potentially support them
through something really difficult.So, yeah, keep speaking up.

Some really, really great points of advice there. Thank you both. And the final part that I'd just like to end on is by asking you both what has been your favourite book
that impacted your career? What do you been able to take bits and pieces from and implement? Doesn't have to be a book. It can be a book, a podcast.

I'm going to stay on my kind of like mental health  theme in this, you know, not that read like sales type books, like books I read are how to be the best version of yourself.

So I'll say Vex King, Good Vibes, Good Life. Great book. If you haven't read it, read it.

And Natalie?

00:23:14:22 - 00:23:17:21
So my mine’s a podcast. All day, everyday. but it's I weigh, by Jameela Jamil.


Thank you both for coming today.It's been really interestingto have a conversation with youand for all of your amazing adviceand everyone,so you two, keep being amazing.And thank you everyone for listeningto today'sepisode of What's in the Pipeline.And we shall see you next time.