Ahead of International Women’s Day, our very own Kate & Gracie Deller met with another inspiring local female businesswoman, with the article provided below. Apologies this has been shared a little late.
Gracie and I are here today at Lucas Lane, the home of Blueharts Hockey Club with the newly finished Pavilion which was designed by a team including this amazing woman who we are talking to now.
Inspired by International Women’s day 2019 on March the 9th This year is being marked by the hashtag #Balancedforbetter to celebrate Women’s achievements and call for a more gender balanced society.
Hitchin Town Football Club in partnership with Humanitas are celebrating the wonderful women that we are lucky enough to have in our community. These women have been pioneers in our community, out there working, having families and showing us all that anything is possible.
Sam Addison, wife and mother, Blueharts 5th Ladies team captain and Head of Project Management in EMEA for Colliers International; a global real estate business who pride themselves on Client success and being entrepreneurial and creative people.
Thank you, Sam for agreeing to speak to Gracie and myself about your life and experiences.
KD which one of those “jobs” listed is your favourite?
SA Being a mum still comes number one, I think all of those form part of who I am, but yes being a mum is the most fun, closely followed by the others. But I am lucky enough to do them all.
KD I don’t know if you are aware of Humanitas and their work. They firmly believe everyone is entitled too 3 main things, Good health, Family and Education. Would you say that these three things have helped you achieve what you have today?
SA Yes definitely I feel very strongly that we all have a basic human right to an education; I have got where I am by having an education, it gave me choices. I’ve ended up working in Property and construction. I was lucky enough to go to a good local school, Hitchin Girls’ School and had a good careers teacher that put me on the correct path. It didn’t matter that I was a girl or that I was interested in property and construction she just said yes absolutely this sounds like it’s for you, she gave me really good information. Then I went to university to study surveying. The education definitely helped to get me where I am, and its given me choices. Health, yes, I didn’t realise until my family had some health issues how important that is and how we take it for granted and as I’m getting older, I have to try harder.
So that’s Health Education and Family, Family is very important to me I’m lucky to have grown up with loads of family around me and that’s definitely been a factor in enabling me to pursue a career whilst having a family and enjoying sports too. All three are basic human rights.
KD What education and working path did you take to become Director and Project Manager for such a Global force?
SA I did quite a few O levels which are GCSEs now. I did quite a broad spread, and like I mentioned earlier, I was really lucky to get a good careers advice. That meant I chose A levels in Maths, Economics and Chemistry, so quite techy as I knew I wanted to head in that direction. Then I was the first one in my family to go to University. It was also important for me that I did a sandwich course so that I could also earn money as well. I did 2 years at university then I did a year out in the industry and then back for a final year, so that also counted towards my qualification. So, I could be a charted surveyor a year after I graduated. I went through the exam. So, it’s just shows how important that careers advice at school is. It really helps, I know we all end up doing different things, and I know that I keep saying choices, but its all about going on a path that gives you choices
KD Have you found that you have been treated differently as a woman either in a positive or negative way?
SA Positives, it means that I have been able to stand out sometimes and I think if you are really performing your job well you can stand out. So, it helped me really, get into certain positions, it given me a voice as well. I’ve never had a problem on site, I think I’ve always been really well received, that trades have always been really good with me and maybe found it a bit of a novelty. So, when I go on site as a Project Manager once they’ve got a bit of comfort that I know what I’m talking about they welcome me with open arms. I had issues more with other consultants, we’ve been learning a lot more about unconscious bias. So, basically where I might be working with my peers who are male, they don’t realise they are biased, but they are. Even recently a colleague said, “well you’re different Sam, because none of our wives work so you’re just a bit unusual aren’t you” he wasn’t meaning it as an insult, but he had this unconscious bias that women don’t do that. And I said, “well actually no that’s my choice”. Again, we are back to choice. It is normal to us. The key thing for me is that I want to work, and I wouldn’t want to have that choice taken away from me. At another time in my life I might chose not to work; in fact I worked part time for 9 years and had a sabbatical for 18 months. So again, it’s all about choice. So, it shows you, that he was a really nice person, but he didn’t realise that he was basically being bias and having to battle against it.
KD Do you think you found it harder as a woman to become a Director in what has been historically a very male environment? do you think you had to work harder than your male counterparts?
SA It’s a similar situation well, certain circumstances, I was part time and basically my peers were getting promoted to Director level and I was told initially I wouldn’t be promoted whilst I was part time. No surprise within 6 months of going full time I was promoted. It is my view that I could have done the Director’s role over 4 days, but I couldn’t persuade the business at that time. I would like to think that that has changed now, that was 9 years ago. I would like to think that it would be different now.
KD In all the time you have now worked in this male environment have you ever felt like giving up when you have faced adversity?
SA No I haven’t actually, I think I was brought up to always keep trying. I had positives that outweighed the negatives. I think I have talked about mentoring, I was lucky; when I came back from having my first baby, I had a mentor and she was at board level and she was really good. Having that mentor when I did have a bad day, it was someone to talk to. I think you do need people to talk to. Someone to bounce things off who is not your boss basically. I have got somebody I use at the moment as mentor and it really helps
KD Have there ever been any situations where you wished you were a man?
SA Yes it probably involves being at a festival and needing a toilet. “Laughter” And probably on site, Ladies toilets are normally pretty awful, if they even exist at all! So, its normally toilet based. I
KD And on the other hand, have there been situations where you have been grateful you are a woman?
SA Construction really does need to be more diverse, with diversity we get many different approaches and too often I am sitting in project meetings; to a certain extent even with the design of this building; if you haven’t got a mixture of people you don’t get the right solution. So, the more diversity you have; and everything I’m doing is project based the more diverse the team the more likely you are to get all the issues solved. You are able to find your way to a solution much easily.
KD Unfortunately this is one of the last sectors that is struggling to come in to the 21st century – in my opinion.
SA It is definitely changing the good thing is there is a will from senior management to change and that across the board in property and construction its getting better. The Government is also putting pressure on, there is a stick and carrot there!
KD How do you see a gender balanced world?
SA Now I’ve had 3 boys for me I think a gender balanced world is definitely better for everybody. I feel that my 3 boys won’t have to follow dictated roles for men, and they will be respectful with their partners whether that male or female. So just basic respect, that it a gender balanced world is more respectful.
KD Do you think women expect too much?
SA Well there is that adage that we want our cake and eat it and I do recognise, because I do meet some women that “oh I don’t want to work, or I’m happy being at home and that’s absolutely fine. I come back to the word choice if a woman wants to work, she should be able to work.
KD And the same goes for a man if he doesn’t want to.
SA Yes, my husband is at the moment taking a break, so he’s not working and he’s finding it a bit tricky sometimes in some social situations, he’s finding it hard to try and explain it. He said if it was me, it wouldn’t be a problem, so he is having the opposite. So again, if it was a gender balanced world, we wouldn’t have these issues.
KD He wouldn’t even think about it twice.
KD What have been your top proudest moments in your life? Pick a couple one is too difficult.
SA The completion of Blueharts Clubhouse, which I’ve been involved in for the last 20 years and it’s been accomplished by a combination of people I’ve known and loved over the years. I think probably at work when I first qualified as a Chartered Surveyor back in 1993 when my mum and dad came down to the RCS, that was a pretty proud moment. There are very few women who make Chartered Surveyors, even now there is only 13% of Chartered Surveyors are female.
KD Really, as small as that, I would things would have changed more by now.
SA Nope, with our graduate scheme we have 48% Women 52% Men, so changes are afoot. But its then getting that progression through. And having my three sons and getting married.
KD What advice could you give to a young girl about her decisions on choosing a career path?
SA Keeping your options open for a balanced career path. Our kids now even more than we had, they like to have 4 or 5 careers options to look at in a portfolio, I think do what you enjoy as well. A lot of people were surprised when I went to study building surveying, but actually I had been involved in a bit of construction with my dad’s business. I had been around that world its what I enjoyed. Whether its GCSEs or A levels or an Apprenticeship do what you enjoy, we are always good at what we enjoy and vice versa. Stick to what you enjoy, and I think also having goals. Every year I have always tried to set myself goals either personal or work, it makes it easier to hit a target
KD Which person do you most admire? And why?
SA This is tricky, I don’t know why I struggle with this. When I was young girl, there was one of my dads’ best friends he always seemed to work really hard, so I always looked up to him. My Mum, I think this is why I automatically worked. She worked in a bank, she worked part time throughout us growing up. I think Amanda Clack Head of Strategic Advisory, CBRE, she’s done a huge amount to try and push the gender discussion, she is a great role model.
KD How important is sport to you as a balance to family life and work?
SA Sport gives me an outlet, at the moment I am probably coaching more than I am playing, but I still find even if I don’t have much time at the weekend once I get out there on a Saturday I feel so much better. It’s like a form of mindfulness for me. I’ve tried sitting down and getting my mind focused but concentrating on a game whether its umpiring or coaching or even playing, you know yourself when you are out there you don’t think of anything else for an hour and a half. So, I always feel better afterwards. I’ve got friends where it might be running or cycling but for me its hockey and I know I can concentrate on it and its good for my brain.
KD Do you think local sports clubs are important for a community? And Why?
SA Definitely, all sports clubs have a part to play, so it could be council owned or privately owned like this one, we supplement the offering from schools and give, particularly our young people, options. I was lucky to start playing hockey at 11 and then came to Blueharts when I was 16. It’s so important it gives kids somewhere to come, it’s a healthy environment and also for older people as well, the fact that we have just done walking hockey and we had people out there who were over 60 and again whatever age you are its just healthy. You are outside you’re not street based and you are focusing on something. You are making friends, and you are having relationships as well they are really important. There could be more support from government. Government talked about having big community club, but at the same time Private clubs are based on having volunteers and they rely on that. It feels like it could be a bit more joined up. Doing this, The Clubhouse, it felt very much like it was us against everybody else. It was down to the club members to get it through, it would have been nice to have some more central support. So Yes, they are really important.
KD Finally, if you could do it all again, what do you want to be when you grow up?
SA I would do it all again. I really enjoy being in Construction and Property, maybe a couple of different turns I would have taken career wise, but where I am now, that’s where I want to be. I am so glad as well to have been able to work flexibly for the past 15 years. I’m really pleased, and I would do it all again, especially this Clubhouse.
KD Well Sam Thank you for your time and I think your facility here is amazing, and its lovely to be asked back to play walking hockey and I’m so pleased for you all because it’s wonderful.
SA That’s what’s nice, is we are here because of the efforts of everybody, players historic and current players. A lot of players put money in to kick the whole thing off as well its great for the whole community.
KD Blueharts now, your roots are very very deep.
SA Yes, we are here for good.
Thank you once again Sam for sharing your thoughts and insights with us.
BY KATE DELLER