Where DOES the time go? It’s time for something a little bit different to usual. This episode we’re joined by Eve Calderbank, Principal Economic Growth Officer at Essex County Council. This sounds scary but isn’t – she wants women in Essex and everywhere to be celebrated and supported, and also to let them know about all the help that’s out there for them, which isn’t always the easiest to find.
She also wants to help the next generation by breaking down some of the stereotypes around certain industries, and show them that girls can do anything.
So we were obviously very excited to welcome her to Creative Reboot and interrogate her!
With a gloriously varied background including being a PA, a secretary, qualifying as an accountant and then working as a financial analyst, while living in cities around the world, Eve Calderbank is a woman on a mission to try to improve the business and career landscape for women based on her own past experiences.
What we talk about
Some of the things we talk about in this episode: careers advice at school and how out of date (and sexist!) some of it is. Choosing a degree based on the amount of exams involved. The path you choose at 16 or 18 doesn’t have to be the one you stay on for your whole career. Developing communication skills and other skills which are transferable between jobs, industries and whole new careers.
Raising awareness of the hundreds of different jobs available within any given industry, which isn’t often common knowledge.
Entrepreneurship and female founders
One strand of her work is around encouraging women into starting their own business, helping female founders and finding them investment, which is a notoriously male dominated area of entrepreneurship.
Women will often invest in other women, but there’s a lack of female investors, so supporting both female founders and female investors is important.
There has been growth of small businesses, home businesses and hobbies becoming businesses during the pandemic, and supporting these women to have the confidence, the testing ground and the encouragement to really go for it is brilliant.
An awful lot of free resources and support exists, but finding it can be tricky. And there’s an element to this work too of showing people that there’s a different way of running a business, you can have one which looks different to a traditional business.
We talked about how flexible working needs to be a complete mindset shift from the employer as well as the employee.
Options for flexible working need to be more than just full time or part time. There are also things like the nine day fortnight, condensed hours, working in the morning and evening with a gap in the middle for childcare, annualised hours – all kinds of different ways to make work, work.
There needs to be more acceptance of the reasons for flexible working, too – while parenting and caring are important reasons, just wanting a better work life balance is also a valid reason for wanting to change working hours or work them in a less rigidly 9-5 fashion.
Schools, careers advice & stereotypes
Ahh, careers advice in school. We are all probably showing our ages if we say that ours were paper questionnaires rather than a computer based quiz, but they’re still quite narrow and can be very sex stereotyped.
There is more of a focus at the moment on pushing more girls to go into STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), and to choose to study them in university and beyond.
There also needs to be more recognition that there is so much else you can do aside from university – on the job training, apprenticeships, and all sorts of other ways to enter a career.
Eve is also looking to shine a spotlight on women in leadership roles – often due to career breaks for children, women don’t get as far up the career ladder as men, but having role models at these levels visit schools & education settings to show what’s possible would be brilliant.
Opening doors is a key theme – and broadening horizons and knowledge of what is out there, and letting girls and young women see themselves in the women who are in the public eye.
Skateboarding and the Olympics, Emma Raducanu’s US Open victory, Kamala Harris and the brilliant Becky Scott who’s a plus size fitness instructor are all great examples of showing the next generation that the sky’s the limit.
Eve’s work also gets involved in this from the industry side, helping sectors like construction and engineering to look at their marketing, their application and interview processes, which are often geared towards men, and seeing how that could be opened up to attract more women to apply for these kinds of roles.
Connection and community
One of the things that came up in our conversation with Eve was that much of this isn’t new, but she’s trying to pull together a lot of disparate stuff that’s already out there and put it in one place.
Beyond that gathering and spreading of information is a desire to create community and connection – women talking to each other, supporting each other, sharing opportunities and celebrating each other.
Keeping it local and relevant to local women, businesses and communities, and also creating community and connection more widely, because opportunities exist everywhere. Plus now the whole world knows how to use Zoom, our work and business geography has changed!
Something close to all our hearts is showing that it’s possible to have a thriving business or career outside of London – in Essex especially, we are close enough to London that many people commute daily, spending hours of time each day and thousands of pounds a year on the travel. There is so much happening right here in our own county already, and this extends to more or less everywhere, including Canada – we should be making the most of it whether we are in business, employed, or both!
We also discussed
Signposting business basics. Generational differences in starting up a business (yes, social media, we’re looking at you!). The disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women – from furlough and redundancy and zero hour contracts, to the caregiving and homeschooling mainly falling to women.
The extension of the average working day during the pandemic and presenteeism sneaking its way even into working from home.
The importance of different perspectives, and the slightly depressing commonality that is bad experiences at work. Though the more uplifting one that is using those experiences to spur changemaking!
Part time work after children, and part time work where you’re expected to achieve the same in three days as everyone else does in five, while only getting paid for three. Being more or less managed out of a role due to having children (again a depressingly common experience). Having to argue your case for changing or reducing your work hours for any reason but especially if children or caring aren’t involved.
How refreshing it is when you do find an employer who genuinely flexes around life (and perhaps what we can learn as business owners from this, both for if/when we have employees, but also for how we treat ourselves in our businesses).
Get more Eve in your life
There’s lots of snippets of fabulous and useful information in this episode – here are the main links for things we mentioned!
You can find Eve’s LinkedIn community at Ambitious Women in Essex.
We will update when her newsletter goes live, and you can get in touch with her with recommendations or anything else at Eve.Calderbank@essex.gov.uk.
The online event celebrating ambitious women in Essex, with speakers and a Q&A session, is at 2.30pm on 10 November 2021 and you can register to attend now.
We Are Radikl – fighting for better funding for women-led businesses