International Women's Day: An interview with Janet Tomlinson, Managing Director of Education Services
With women across the world celebrating international women's day today (8th March 2019) and to celebrate the increase of women entering a broader range of occupations, we ask Tribal's Managing Director of Education Services, Janet Tomlinson, to recall what inspired her career and what she sees happening for women in the future.
Janet joined Tribal at the end of 2009. Prior to this, Janet was Director of Education and Children’s Services in Oxfordshire. Janet has chaired a range of regional partnership boards, including Children’s Trusts, Safeguarding Boards, Education Action Zones and Creative Partnerships. She has also advised the Government on the educational impact of migration and on school inspection policy.
Who or what inspired you to choose this career?
My strong belief in the power of education to change people’s lives for the better.
What advice would you have given yourself when starting out?
Never underestimate how long it takes to change deeply ingrained beliefs and the related behaviours.
If you knew then what you know now, what mistakes might you have avoided?
There is another way of looking at this question. If I had known then what I know now, I may never have attempted some of the challenges which enabled me to progress in my career.
What's the best piece of advice you've received so far?
A few years ago I had a conversation with the then Business Woman of the Year and asked her what advice she gave to women starting out on their careers. She did not hesitate before replying “Don’t dress like a tart if you want to be taken seriously at work.” On reflection, it’s hard to disagree with this. I was surprised that she went for a statement relating to how women look, but it is a fact that this is very often how women are judged. If you want the quality of your work to be recognised, you have to shift the emphasis from your appearance.
Who are the women you really admire/influence you?
I admire women who have used their influence to encourage and support the next generation of women; whether through writing, speaking, being positive role models or mentoring. There are so many examples I could pick but I’ll limit myself to three. I have just read “Becoming” by Michelle Obama and would recommend this to anyone. Her central theme, that of becoming, is about the importance of the voyage rather than arriving at a destination, but the book is so much more than this and is full of fascinating insights. As a child, I read about Marie Curie and was inspired to study science even though most of my female friends opted for other subjects. A former work colleague, who gave inspirational presentations and talks, always urged women to stop apologising. This made me listen to everyday conversations and I was amazed at how often we do this. She used to pose the question: “Is being a woman equivalent to being in the wrong?”
What's still on your to-do list / Life goals?
Learning something new every day. If I haven’t done this, the day has been wasted.
What positive changes have you seen for women in the workplace over the last 10 years?
Pay inequalities are now acknowledged and data is collected and reported – this is a major positive change. However, there is still a long way to go!