International Women’s Day 2021: Hadi Brooks

By Ben Carey on 7 March, 2021

The Business Exchange is proud to support the 2021 International Women’s Day #ChooseToChallenge campaign. This year we’ve reached out to the women in our community to hear their experiences of being a woman in business, discover why International Women’s Day is important to them and find out what they #ChooseToChallenge.

Hadi Brooks, Owner, Rays Ice Cream

I #ChooseToChallenge gender stereotypes. We’ve come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go and I fear the pandemic may have set us back, particularly around assumptions about which parent is responsible for childcare when both are working.

Why is International Women’s Day important to you? 

It celebrates the fantastic achievements of women and seeks to accelerate gender parity. A cause which I am sad is still necessary in 2021, but it is and so it is great to have a day focussing on the issue.

What do we still need to do for gender equality? 

Challenge mindsets and call out biased views and actions as they happen – both to ourselves and if we observe them happening to others. We must speak up at the time and not just take to social media to moan about things later.

What did you want to be when you were young? Have you ended up doing what you always wanted to? Has being a woman held you back?   

I am fortunate in that I don’t feel being a woman has held me back. I went to a predominantly boys’ boarding school which definitely shaped me as a person; we were all treated equally and many of the subjects one might associate with girls just didn’t exist.

I joined the graduate scheme of a company in a very male-dominated industry and by the age of 22 I was an Area Manager managing 16 people (mostly men) with the youngest being twice my age, and I thrived.

Running my own business I have always thought of myself as a business person and not a business lady, as I don’t see what difference being a woman makes. But for the first time I really noticed gender disparity, for example the bank calling and asking to speak to my husband despite my name being on the business account.

For a long time I also didn’t see the point of days like International Women’s Day. I didn’t feel these issues were ones that applied to me. However, as I’ve grown in the world of business I do see issues of gender disparity all around me and just because I’ve rarely felt directly affected it doesn’t mean that they’re not there. Perhaps it makes me even better placed to do something about it.

I was thrilled to be chosen as one of the #iAlso100 campaign for 2021. It’s a campaign that highlights inspiring female business leaders across the UK. The campaign does loads to inspire other female businesspeople and I am proud to be part of it and the work done to encourage other women in business. 

What is your advice to your younger self and what are your tips to nurture the strong independent girls of the future? 

My daughter has just turned 10 and I see a lot of my younger self in her. As parents we encourage her to do what she wants to do and we will continue to do that.

I’ve noticed that things that are still remarkable to me are met with a ‘Yeah, and?’ attitude by my daughter. An example of this was when we went to watch some motorbike racing at the Castle Coombe racetrack. The riders were predominantly men and I remarked on one race winner, the only female in that race. Grace didn’t see this as remarkable at all – I took that as a heartening sign that things may be truly changing.

Follow the IWD campaign on social media using the hashtags #IWD2021 and #ChooseToChallenge.

Find out more about International Women’s Day