Aimed at women working at operational level in Flexible Space Association operator members, the Women in Flex series of events, conceived and developed in partnership with technologywithin, are unlike any other panel discussion events because the subject matter is personal. Successful women in the sector share their career stories to inspire others and create an open conversation about how the highs and lows along the way.
Host location this time around was the gorgeous Huckletree West in White City and CEO Gaby Hersham and Commercial Director Sophie Turnbull kindly hosted the conversations.
Our thanks go to our panellists for sharing their stories so honestly; Katrina Larkin, from TOG, Morgan Pierstorff from Newflex, Heather Murchie from Impact Working, Laura Walker from Orega and Cassie Nichols from Pure Offices; and their colleagues who turned up to support them.
Imposter syndrome affects everyone
Every panellist at the event admitted to being nervous about sitting on the stage and to having felt imposter syndrome at some stage in their career. The collective belief was that talking about it is a strength, not a weakness and encourages everyone to think that it’s normal. Advice to combat it was to ensure that you are well prepared for those key meetings or presentations, seek support of mentors and set clear goals for yourself.
Coming back from maternity leave is hard
For those who were parents, all felt that deciding how to manage maternity leave and the return to work were tough decisions. Some had felt an immense pressure to return to work (often self created) so the advice was to think carefully about what works for your family. A career break is not a bad thing.
Employer approach to returners made a real difference to how the experience, so we all need to have honest conversations about the kind of supportive work environment we need to make change.
The other piece of valuable advice was to lose the need for perfection, as either a parent, or an employee. Many agreed that perfectionism is common in successful women and deciding to stop beating yourself up was an important step to finding balance. You have to forget how you used to do it and prioritise.
The sector has a high burn out risk
Flex is a busy industry. Whether you are running a space; juggling the myriad of day to day tasks alongside viewings and running community events; project managing the opening of new spaces or travelling up and down the country in a management role. It was acknowledged that the risk of burnout was quite high, so there was much discussion on how to protect yourself.
Accepting that most situations that happen at 7pm can wait until the next day was a first step and looking ahead to understand the peaks and troughs enables you to plan for busy times longer term. Its also important to take care of yourself by doing something you love, whether that’s exercising, going to a gig or drinking a margarita!
Know your career path and create a network that supports you
All felt that conscious career planning at some level had helped them succeed. Many also had a great line manager or mentor, who had given them the opportunity to stretch themselves. Attendees were encouraged to be curious and volunteer for new projects and to think about who is in their network – do they know about you?
Personality, personality, personality
In the discussion about whether further education was important for developing a career in the sector, everyone seemed to be of the opinion that personal skills, the ability to talk to anyone, be adaptable and keep calm under pressure were just as important. A good reference and a passion for the work were a better indication of whether someone would be a good fit when interviewing.
Following your passions outside of work was also felt to have value as it builds confidence and drive, which you can bring with you to work.
Thanks again to all of our panellists and we look forward to bringing you another Women in Flex event in 2024. In the meantime, you can read blogs from previous events here and watch our most recent webinar here.