International Women’s Day 2020: Advice to my younger self

For International Women’s Day this year, we want to initiate a dialogue whereby we celebrate women’s achievements while supporting and inspiring other women who are forging their own careers.

So, we asked eighteen women from across the world of work, at different stages of their careers, the following question:

“If you met your younger self now in the workplace, what advice would you give her?” 


“My younger self had been so anxious about getting it wrong, or even worse, wanting to always be right.  Around 10 years ago, I sensed a change in myself. I felt more comfortable in my skin, I was enjoying my work more, and I discovered I had a sense of humour. Was it just the wisdom of age? Or was it lessons learnt along the way which shaped how I behaved as a leader?

What could I tell my younger self?

From time to time things will go wrong. Yes, that will make you anxious. However, what you do to put it right will define you. So, accept responsibility, say sorry, listen and be kind. Kindness is underrated. Be generous with it.”

Sherry Malik , Director of Children’s Services, NSPCC


“Don’t be too concerned with having a career plan – be open to opportunities, and recognise they generally don’t arise at the “right time” and you will need to be flexible.

Be curious – ask questions, read widely, have a broad network not just people who work in your sector or profession.

Build in some time to reflect as you go – capture your learning regularly, including what you learn about yourself.

Don’t keep trying to wear those heels – flat shoes can be smart and comfortable!!”

Jane Ashcroft CBE, Chief Executive, Anchor Hanover


“I would tell her to dream big, believe in herself, say yes to every new opportunity even when it feels uncomfortable, seek out people she admires who are doing the things she wants to do, ask their advice and above all listen well.”

Susan Daniels, Chief Executive, National Deaf Children’s Society


“Start building a network now of other women who can support and guide you. Don’t be afraid to approach people who impress you, they will almost always want to help and be flattered that you have asked.

Think beyond just the next steps in your current job and think about building a group of women around you who are impressive in a range of ways, such as their ability to communicate or because of their ethics and approach to life.  Try and gather different ages and backgrounds. These women will help and support you throughout your life and career.”

Emma Broadbent, Director of Registration and Revalidation, Nursing and Midwifery Council


“Hard work is essential but not enough by itself – building your visibility and credibility is more important and that means taking on opportunities to blog, speak and show who you are. Even if you are an introvert, there are ways of building your confidence to take on the challenges of being more visible and vocal but it is the single most important constituent of building your profile in the sector.

Always do the things that you are most scared of – the more you do them, the easier it gets.

Finally, people relate to you as a person so bring your own personality, style and individuality to everything you do. Your experience in life is what differs you from everyone else so don’t be hesitant about showing your true self.”

Fozia Irfan, Chief Executive, BedfordshireLuton Community Foundation


“Slow down and rush less otherwise you could miss some magical moments and opportunities; new things emerge when we create space and hold our plans and ideas lightly. Mistakes are great opportunities to learn, so practise failing! Love yourself more; how can you expect others to love you if you don’t love yourself, and striving for perfection really isn’t the best use of your energy.

Really appreciate those around you; you can learn so much as well as give so much back and they sadly won’t be there forever.”

Sonya Chowdhury, Chief Executive, Action for M.E.


“When I started work, quite a macho male colleague started at the same time. He was a real salesman, with the gift of the gab and the confidence to just wing it and pull things off.
I felt a lot of pressure to match him, to be good at everything he was good at, even though I am quite different. I did learn a lot from him, but in the constant comparison I became less confident of my own strengths.

What I’d say to my younger self now is to let people’s strengths inspire me rather than intimidate me. There’s a lot of pressure on young women in the workplace, but in the right job your own strengths will be recognised and there will be room for different types of people to succeed.”

Melissa Sidnell, Senior Account Manager, Good Relations


“I would say trust yourself fully, be your own best friend, take some time every week to think about how your relationships are going, address the issues that don’t feel right as soon as possible, be compassionate to everyone, and start with yourself.”

Manjari Prashar, Visiting Fellow, Cranfield University School of Management


“Some of the best advice I received was to remember that if you don’t feel at least a little out of your depth going into a new role, you’re not challenging yourself. Pushing yourself in that way is how you’ll develop skills and grow professionally so it’s worth quietening the seeds of doubt and just going for it. There is a reason they chose you for the role after all.”

Alicia Eames, CRM Marketing Manager, Royal Academy of Arts



“If I met my younger self working in her first professional kitchen, I would tell her not to be intimidated by male dominance within the industry. Ignore the “princess” comments and thousands of innuendoes, the fights and arguments that break out in front of her. Instead, I’d tell her to focus on the positives: the reviews from customers, the beauty and indulgence of her creations.

This is only the first stepping stone on a whole new journey in life, and we don’t know what opportunities lie ahead. Don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd; if you have an idea, explore it and take risks.

We live in a world where women finally have a chance to be heard. Use your voice and keep your head up strong.”

Georgia Green, Founder, Georgia’s Cakes


“I would say to myself: prioritise your awareness of how structural racism, gender inequality, ableism, and classism, play out in your own life, in order to be aware of discriminations as they came up.

I have always been the kind of person who would bash through hurdles or find a way around them, so I’m not sure if the awareness would have changed my path or what I’ve achieved, but it would definitely have improved my self-purpose, self-worth, and self-power. These are things that I worked hard to find for myself in my late 30s. I would have preferred to have discovered them from a younger age.”

Meena Rajput, Greenpeace


“Try not to get too frustrated with yourself for not being perfect straight away at absolutely everything you do. Some things will take longer than you want to fall into place but that doesn’t matter. Life is long.

Make sure you are building and nurturing other things outside your work so all the inevitable stresses and failures and strained work relationships don’t feel like your whole world. And hold on to all the wonderful things and triumphs, big and small, that will happen! Those moments are far more slippery and precious.”

Celia Archer, Musician, The Big Moon and Gently Tender


“I think a lot of women struggle to accept praise. Whenever someone in my workplace tells me I’ve done something well, my first instinct is always to minimise – to say it wasn’t that difficult or it didn’t take very long. This kind of thinking means that we can undervalue our own skills and the experience we’ve worked hard to gain. So my advice would be – take pride in your own achievements!”

Annie Field, Consultant Researcher, Campbell Tickell


“If I met my younger self in the workplace a few years ago, I would spend time encouraging her to do a few significant things. They are:

• Learn to love and listen to your self and inner voice. By appreciating yourself and listening to your inner voice, which is in fact your internal, protective compass, then you will avoid many mistakes and unnecessary challenges.

• As soon as you successfully achieve a new job; acquire a new project or goal, immediately begin to plan your exit strategy by working towards achieving your next aspiration.

• Develop the passion for reading. A passion and discipline for reading keeps you informed, agile and knowledgeable in this fast- paced world in which we all live in.

Life is wonderful, but short, so it’s important to make the most of what you value the most and that is you.”

Charlotte V V Johnson FCIPD, FCMI, MSc, Former NHS Head of Organisation Development & Inclusion


If I met my younger self at work today, I would say three things…

1. Keep doing what you’re doing, you’ve worked really hard to get where you are, keep the work ethic up, but remember we work to live, not live to work–find the work life balance.

2. Stay open-minded and don’t try to pigeonhole yourself into one area too quickly. Be a yes-woman and give everything a go: you’ll find something you love.

3. Don’t sweat the small stuff. So much easier said than done, but after a long day, a rude manager, or a frustrating meeting, don’t be downhearted – find the learning in every experience and take it forward, be passionate about what you do and learn to take the emotion out of it, you’ll go further, have more fun, and be more resilient in the long run.”

Nicola Lishak, Head of Information Assurance, Royal Mail Group


“I’d say take work seriously but don’t make it the be all and end all of life. Organisations and businesses can be really tough places to work in and so hold on to a sense of yourself and listen to your gut instinct.

Treat work colleagues, how you would want to be treated; be helpful but don’t always be a saviour to others. You will meet some lovely people in the workplace, so make friends with them as they will become your support network in that workplace and even when you move to another. Believe in yourself and go for that top job.

I’d also tell myself that family and close friends come first and so be with them when you need to be. Any workplace that doesn’t understand this, is probably not the right place for you. Make sure you take your annual leave and go on holiday.

Take measured risks at work, they may come off, they may not, but the experience will help you learn and grow. Also, when you make a mistake (and you will) don’t let it consume you, keep it in perspective. Remember, that your opinion is as valid as anyone else’s, and maybe even better, so use your voice and try to be who you really are.”

Heather Thomas, Chief Executive, Sapphire Independent Housing


“I’d say slow down and savour the moment.”

Deborah Cohen, Former NHS Executive Director


“You matter, take yourself seriously. You will face structural inequality (whether discrimination or the feminisation of care etc.) and it’s not your fault.

You won’t always have the power to challenge it, but where you can, do, and when you can help other women make it a priority. And – perhaps more frivolously! – ask yourself: what would Madonna do?”

Sarah Ashwin, LSE


To discuss any diversity, inclusion and equality issues, contact: or

Campbell Tickell is an established multi-disciplinary management and recruitment consultancy, operating across the UK and Ireland, focusing on the housing, social care, local government, sport, leisure, charity and voluntary sectors.

We are a values-based business and firmly place the positioning of our support and challenge on helping organisations to attain change that is well thought through, planned and sustainable. At CT, we want to help organisations create the landscape within which we ourselves would like to exist: fair, inclusive, diverse, engaged and transparent. We build from our values in how we approach all our work as a practice.

Find out more about our services.


International Women’s Day 2020: Advice to my younger self

For International Women’s Day this year, we want to initiate a dialogue whereby we celebrate women’s achievements while supporting and inspiring other women who are forging their own careers.

[stm_about_vacancy css=".vc_custom_1453112586637{margin-bottom: 60px !important;}"]