International Women’s Day 2021: Paula Harsley

By Ben Carey on 9 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 business community to hear their experiences of being a woman in business, why International Women’s Day is important to them and what they #ChooseToChallenge.

Paula Harsley, Business Navigator, SWLEP

I #ChooseToChallenge the times when women are told they can’t have the opportunities that men have, and to highlight strong, enthusiastic, inspiring women.

Why is International Women’s Day important to you? 

There are millions of women around the world that are still disadvantaged, abused and ignored.  IWD gives those women a voice to enable them to become victors in their situations, not victims.

What do we still need to do for gender equality? 

In the first world, the pay gap is still an issue and there are still less opportunities for career progression caused by maternity leave and inflexible employers. In the developing world, the situation tends to be more cultural; there are many tribal and religious beliefs that segregate women, allow child marriages, female genital mutilation and bigamy. 

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 went to an all-girls’ school with a Careers Adviser and Head Teacher who frowned on any girl who wanted to be a secretary, nurse or seek a career in any other stereotypically female profession.

I joined a bank and due to their focus on a Management Development Scheme, I became the first female Regional Manager within the mortgage services department.  I then went on to be the most senior female within the bank to be given part-time hours having had my son.

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

You can do it.  Challenge yourself and others but make sure you do it with kindness and compassion.  Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe in.

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

Find out more about International Women’s Day