Women in the workplace: ‘The individual suffering discrimination or harassment will often find themselves isolated..’

Fiona Hotson Moore

Fiona Hotson Moore - Credit: Archant

With women’s rights and gender equality under the microscope, this week we will feature four prominent Suffolk business women talking about their experiences in the workplace and how things have changed in their time. Today, its the turn of Fiona Hotson Moore, partner at Ensors Chartered Accountants.

What has been your greatest challenge in the workplace as a woman?

Balancing work and family life has been the hardest challenge in my career, particularly when the children were small. I do not think it is possible to have it all. I have been fortunate to have a supportive partner but I have still had to make compromises. I also think priorities change and it’s important to appreciate that and revisit what will work for you together with your family commitments regularly.

Have you encountered any discrimination or harassment during your time in business?

I have experienced and observed discrimination, harassment and bullying over my career. I did file a claim in the Employment Tribunal and that was a really tough decision at the time. I do not regret the decision. It has helped me understand how difficult it can be for individuals to challenge discrimination.

The individual suffering discrimination or harassment will often find themselves isolated. All too often their colleagues and management will refuse to acknowledge the problem when it’s raised and the individual does not receive the appropriate support.

As recent press coverage has shown, leaders and colleagues within the media industry, the City, government and public sector all too often refuse to see the abuse and inappropriate behaviour going on under their noses.

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There are also the less obvious discriminatory practices observed by the “old boy’s network” such as business conferences on the golf course, men only hospitality events and private membership clubs which exclude or discourage females.

How have things changed re: attitudes towards and opportunities for women in the workplace since you have been working?

Things have changed positively over the three decades of my career and many organisations now have formalised systems and support in place to recruit and retain women.

But progress has not been as fast as I hoped for my daughter and her generation. I have, however, had a great career and family life. I have enjoyed working with a diverse, and often enlightened, group of colleagues and clients. I do not think my gender has held me back and I look forward to seeing my daughter and nieces flourish in their careers.

What positives do you see in the world of work for women today?

I am optimistic that recent media attention and campaigns such as #MeToo mean that finally leaders realise these practices will not be tolerated by the public and their customers and have to stop. I expect the pace of change will accelerate.

What advice would you offer younger women entering the workplace?

Choose an employer carefully to suit your own values and aspirations. Find a couple of mentors or sponsors to give you support and feedback. Help and support others in the workplace.

It is important to be true to yourself and, as a woman, it’s perhaps easier to be different and stand out from the crowd.

As one of my first bosses said to me: “Life is not a rehearsal so make every day count” both at work and home.