Published: March 7, 2022
At Unity, we champion equality and inclusion and believe our workforce should reflect the diversity of the communities we collectively serve. However, equality isn’t just for International Women’s Day – we’re committed to forging a gender-equal world 365 days of the year.
In the lead up to International Women’s Day on Tuesday 8 March 2022, Unity Trust Bank is profiling 8 different women in banking and celebrating their individual career journeys.
We asked how their banking career journey began and discovered everyone’s path was unique.
Laura Willis-Shaw, who has been Head of Unity Connect for two years, said her first part-time job was in a fruit shop before going on to college and then joining the banking industry.
She said: “I have been fortunate to have a career where I have been able to work with the general public throughout many different roles. Within all those roles, I’ve also been really lucky to be a people leader which is where my passion for people continues to be of great importance to me.”
Some of our colleagues have experienced more varied career journeys like our HR Director, Lisa Dickens, who has worked for the Government, NHS, in IT and Financial Services.
She said: “You don’t know these things about yourself until you have these experiences. I wouldn’t have necessarily thought of myself as an empathetic person, but you just discover these things as you go.”
When asked about their career highlights, Unity’s Digital & Social Media Marketing Manager Hattie Lewis, 24, said: “I think my whole journey and being promoted into different roles has been a highlight because it shows that continued hard work and perseverance does pay off. To see your hard work being acknowledged and knowing that you’re continuing to improve and progress, is rewarding.”
Ailsa Neely, Project Support, said: “I enjoy taking on projects, running them from start to finish, delivering them on time and on budget. This always feels like a big success because it’s relatively new in terms of how many things I’ve been able to do that with.”
Focussing on the challenges they have faced on their career journey; our colleagues have had to overcome different hurdles.
Penny Hogan, Interim Financial Controller, said: “I have had some personal challenges around balancing my work life, and as a woman, it’s the decision about when to start a family. There are some very critical decisions around when you get married, when you start having children and when is the best time to do it. I had my first child at 34. That enabled me to really focus on my career up to that stage. The biggest challenge for me is managing the parental guilt that comes with still wanting a career but equally still wanting to be the best parent you possibly can.
Unity’s Head of Propositions & Brand, Louise Pursglove, said: “I think the biggest challenge throughout my career has been business cultures; trying to work with really antiquated, outdated cultures, or the disconnect between a culture that a business thinks it has, and the culture they have got. Luckily at Unity, the culture is completely grounded by integrity and shared values of colleagues.”
Asking what advice they would give to people just starting out on their career, Sara Burney, Commercial Counsel, said: “Keep at it. Keep fighting because there are opportunities if you can find them and if you are not easily dissuaded. And if anyone is thinking about a career in law, never be concerned that you are not the brightest person in the class because I certainly wasn’t. I think a lot of it was tenacity rather than academic achievement. If you put your mind to it, and you absolutely graft, you will get there.”
Julia Godino, Head of Credit Underwriting, said: “Try and get a really good breadth of experience. Try to do different roles and take on different opportunities. Really try to grow the knowledge that you have before you settle into a particular role or a particular stream. Then you can find out if this is really what I want to do for the long term.”
We also asked our colleagues which women inspired them. Their answers included colleagues, members of their own family and famous role models.
Lisa Dickens, HR Director, said: “Michelle Obama is my inspiration for a lot of things. She inspires me by showing that it is OK to put your family first and not having to feel guilty about that.”
Ailsa Neely, Project Support, Change, said: “Emma Richards inspires me. She is Head of IT and has an awful lot on her plate. But she still gets things done and has a great sense of humour about things. To be able to pull the team together, and do what she does, inspires me.
Laura Willis-Shaw, Head of Unity Connect, said: “This is an easy one for me. My nana is my biggest inspiration. She was one of six children, and she was the eldest, which meant that she had to become an adult at quite a young age.
My nan has given me the best quote that I take everywhere with me. ‘The best gift you can give somebody is time’. She is right! This is something I live by today.”