Ask The Expert – Women in Business
From Copper to Gold. To celebrate International Women’s Day (Friday 8th March) Right Angle’s Director Kate Gaskin, talks about her journey from a young Police Officer in the 70’s to being a Director of the highly successful team building events company. Kate looks back on the changing face of women in the workplace and gives her thoughts on how far businesses have come in levelling the gender playing field.
How Did You Make The Transition From Scotland Yard To Running Your Own Business?
In truth this was a slightly convoluted route. I worked in several different fields first, I was an Educational Welfare Officer with Surrey County Council – working with young people with attendance issues. I then went into a sales role (which interestingly, I was in tele-sales before I joined the Police). Although I hadn’t intended to set up a business – however once I thought about it, it was the perfect medium to have the freedom and flexibility I craved within my working life. I had a range of personal responsibilities and I wanted to be able to manage all the different aspects of my life. When I first left the Police I was completely unaware of how transferable my skills would be. I had had such a range of experiences and roles within the organisation I was certainly blessed without even realising it.
What Key Skills Have You Transferred From Your Time In The Service To Being A Director?
I think the biggest attribute the Police gave me was confidence, a belief that there are resolutions to the majority of situations. The service gave me a ‘perspective’- unless it is life or death most things are either not that important or can be overcome/solved/ or don’t really matter. Communication skills, discernment in judging people and situations- I don’t always get it right but it has helped. Also, having moved around within a large organisation I have had a variety of roles and experiences which certainly have stood me in good stead later. The training within the Police was excellent. I even worked within the Training Department for a period of time. I did curriculum design and development plus evaluation. Later I was formulating management and supervisory courses including running ‘training the trainer’ courses.
Having been involved in planning large public order events such as football matches, Notting Hill Carnival and protest marches latterly this planning skill was easily transferable to the events world. Also, having policed large events ranging from the Pope’s visit, endless football matches, poll tax riots, dealing with the aftermath of terrorist attacks, anti abortion marches and music festivals- interpersonal skills become finely tuned. The 80’s were turbulent years with much social unrest, latterly managing teams of officers and non police staff as well as working in the field of Child Protection. One project I worked on was a Pan London review looking at the integrity of evidence and the recording of it- in fact I went to one station to inspect their evidence unit and met my now husband! That wasn’t what I was looking for but was an unintended outcome.
How Much Has Business Landscape Changed For Women Since You Started Your Career?
I am not sure I can comment upon the business landscape ‘per se’ but certainly the world of work generally has moved immensely in relation to the attitudes to the employment of women. I do acknowledge that there is still much work to be done to negate negative attitudes and expectations, however there have been enormous strides forward. It was unimaginable 40 years ago to have women heading up all the major public services in London Police, Fire Brigade and Ambulance as well as a female Prime Minister (I know Thatcher had just come into power in 1979) I have always been a feminist and proudly so, I truly believe this movement has contributed much to the political, economic and social landscape of our country. I have three adult daughters who I genuinely believe have benefited from much that has gone before from both women and many men.
Do You Think That Modern Businesses Are Finally Seeing Just How Valuable Women Are In The Workplace?
It is like anything, some organisations really do see the value and others perhaps less so. Sadly, we still see horror stories of women being treated poorly and undervalued. However my personal experience is that the whole employment and business landscape is vastly improved, not only in the way women are treated but in their personal expectations and aspirations. Movements such as #Thisgirlcan, #Wecan and #Metoo enhance self belief and female empowerment.
What Is The One Key Piece Of Advice You Would Give A Woman Looking To Start Her Own Business?
Do it, seek as much help and advice as possible, take advantage of every opportunity and grant out there. Don’t dither or allow self doubt to hold you back. Hold your nose and jump! Sometimes people spend so much time researching that they actually procrastinate but dress it up under premise of research. Research and planning is important but doing is the key.
For more information on International Women’s Day