We asked our three female board members to share their career journeys, in their own words, on International Women’s Day
Here at Embridge we pride ourselves on recognising that our team are individuals, with equal voices and equal opportunity to excel. We look at our team members’ specific skills and capabilities, nurturing and supporting them to each bring their own unique abilities to the organisation. In doing so, we’ve achieved, without intention, an almost 50/50 split between female and male colleagues and that representation goes right up to board level.
In celebration of International Women’s Day this year, we asked our three female board members (that’s half of our board!) to share their career journeys, in their own words, in the hope of inspiring others and show what’s achievable for everyone.
Jane Dobson – Chief Finance Officer
Prior to joining Embridge I was working in a very male dominated environment, but by the age of 22 I had managed to progress to the position of Financial Controller, which involved attending board meetings where I was the only women.
I studied to become a Chartered Management Accountant while my first child was under the age of 3 and had achieved that by the age of 30. By then I had also become Finance Director at a commercial mortgage and insurance broker and, again, was the only female director in the company.
At 40, with my second child only aged 2, I changed careers to become a Systems Analyst. I also did Project Management, but by the time I was 50 I had gone full circle and was back in Finance. I was appointed CFO of Embridge in 2019 where I definitely wasn’t the only women on the senior management team or on the board!
In the words of Oprah Winfrey “You can have it all, you just can’t have it all at once” !
Faye O’Connell – Chief Product Officer
Since I left university, I have always felt supported and propelled as a woman in business. Initially, starting out as a HR Professional, a very female orientated profession, I took a leap into system consultancy.
Despite this being a more male dominated environment, I never felt inhibited by my gender. In my experience, demonstrable competence, capability and having a passion and drive for what you do have been the key ingredients to my career progression.
Embridge Consulting certainly recognises and values these attributes. Over the course of five years, I have progressed from Solutions Consultant to Product Manager, Product Director and, most recently, Chief Product Officer.
Being a Board member and a mum of two, balancing the demands of the role with my family commitments can be challenging at times, especially as a part time worker. But, with the support of my husband, employer and colleagues, together my unyielding commitment and passion (and lots of planning!), I’ve never felt I needed to compromise.
Emma O’Brien – Chief Executive Officer and Founder
During my early career, I found myself in a largely male dominated working environment. With a genuine passion to learn and develop my own career, I very quickly became determined that I would put in the hard work that would demonstrate my own capability regardless of some of the challenges and situations I found myself in as a young woman in a largely older male environment.
In the main I was very supported by my colleagues, and, in fact, I had many male colleagues who were excellent role models, but I also found myself in situations where certain individuals felt it was ok to abuse their senior status. Sadly, like many women progressing their career, I have experienced times when certain individuals thought that sexist, intimidating and chauvinistic behaviour was ok – well it’s not!
When I gave birth to my daughter at 28 after reaching a senior role and having progressed my career quickly, I found working part time very difficult. Being away from the office 1-2 days per week led to a difference in the way my colleagues would work with me. I often felt excluded from key decisions and somehow didn’t feel as integrated in the organisation as I had done previously. I don’t believe this was intentional, but it was how it was – out of sight out of mind.
I still maintain now that I was able to be as productive working part time as my peers were who worked full time. As I’m sure all working mums will relate to, developing excellent time management skills simply came as part of the territory. In addition, as I was ‘only part time’ I felt my ability to progress my career at the same rate as I had previously was suddenly limited overnight.
After I had my second child a couple of years later, I found myself facing an unexpected redundancy when I was due to return from maternity leave. I was faced with a life changing decision – do I look for an equivalent senior position in another organisation and accept I must work full time as a result? I mean in those days who advertised part time senior positions? No one. I quickly concluded I didn’t want to go back to a full-time role. I felt I deserved the right to be a mum to my children whilst also continuing to develop my own career, and I was determined I could do both. So, I launched my own digital transformation consultancy in a quest for work-life balance and Embridge Consulting was born.
Every entrepreneur knows that you don’t work nine-to-five: you live and breathe your business every day of the week. But I’m absolutely focused with my time. I have three children now; my third child was born a few years after founding the business. Whilst this has presented even further challenges, as unfortunately my youngest also has been diagnosed with complex medical needs, I am delighted with the success our business has enjoyed over the last few years, and how I have developed my own career and learned so much whilst also never once missing a hospital appointment, a school play, sports day or parents’ evening yet!
But it’s not just about me – I want Embridge to be a business with purpose. I want us to be able to be proud of the contribution that we’re making, not just in terms of the impact we have on our clients but the impact we have on our people, and society. We want to really contribute and give something back and if I can provide work life flexibility and career development for all our staff regardless of nationality, race, colour or gender, offering the opportunities we all deserve then that will make me a very happy CEO!