Comment: International Women’s Day and my fleet journey
With International Women’s Day being celebrated on Sunday 8 March, Agility Fleet operations director Jacki Stevenson looks at how perceptions have changed in the workplace and urges other females to chase their own dreams.
When I was taking my first steps up the career ladder, the working world was barely recognisable from that of today. Looking back, it’s interesting to see just how much perceptions have changed in such a short space of time.
It’s not that long ago that I was dismissed for refusing to wear high heel shoes while cooking in the kitchen at the local pub – and when I worked behind the bar, I had to deal with various comments from customers, which used to be par for the course and generally accepted as the norm.
Then when I first started selling cars to traders, I had jokes from male colleagues about being on the car park in a short skirt. I believe casual comments like this – and general passive views about females – are now frowned upon and I feel a lot more respected as time has gone on.
As a single mum, I often felt judged and pigeon-holed in the days before Agility Fleet and that’s why International Women’s Day resonates with me and is an important date in the calendar.
The main challenges were the general perceptions from others that a single mum couldn’t progress when working part-time and bringing up her daughter. There was an inference that I wasn’t good enough to do the same role as a man at times, which was difficult to quantify, but certainly a feeling I had.
I have a different perspective now, since I founded Agility Fleet back in 2004 with managing director Keith Townsend, as part of Agility Group. I’ve worked in several different departments during my time at Agility, helping the business to win multiple awards including BVRLA’s Unsung Hero Award, and realised it’s important to let your talent do the talking.
But a supportive workplace is also essential. At Agility, allowing individuals to grow and develop – whatever their gender or background – is part of an overarching company philosophy. Agility boasts a diverse group of people, with one common goal to succeed and be respectful in all of its daily operations.
There are a lot of females in the workplace and our vow at Agility is to attract, engage and develop people – no matter their gender or background. It isn’t relevant whether a colleague is a male or female, so long as they can fulfil the role effectively and are a hard-working individual who’s driven to succeed.
This is borne out by the numbers of females here; more than half of Agility’s employees are female and I’m one of three women on the senior management team.
But more needs to be done in the wider working world; while the share of women in senior roles globally is increasing incrementally, women are less likely to reach the top levels of management.
That’s why we should use International Women’s Day to celebrate our achievements and increase visibility of our actions while calling out inequalities anywhere and everywhere. It’s time to recognise that we can make a gender-equal world and take action on achieving this.