#NELFTWomen - A conversation with Sue Lees
International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day are coming up this month. Throughout March, we are celebrating our incredible #NELFTWomen and highlighting the support and opportunities available to them.
Below is an interview with Sue Lees, a Non-Executive NELFT Board member:
Why do you think it is important to celebrate International Women's Day?
It is vital to highlight all the fabulous female role models out there, to give today’s women the belief that they can succeed. Sharing our lives experiences helps others to say ‘if she can do it, so can I!’
Have you faced any barriers in your career due to being a woman? If so, how did you overcome them?
Occasional sexism, more tricky when I was training to be an accountant than any other time. I think classism has been more of a problem for me than gender. There are a huge number of stereotypes about East Londoners, and Essex girls, which assume we are dumb. I once was told by an interviewer that my biggest obstacle to success was the fact that I am a woman. I guess that counts as sexism! I knew he was wrong though. It was my biggest advantage in truth. The way to succeed is to do a good job, and bring your team with you. A united team can achieve anything it wants to, and overcome all obstacles in the way.
What is the most important piece of advice you have been given?
Believe in yourself, trust your instincts.
How can we encourage more women to pursue senior leadership roles in their career?
By showing it can be done, by modelling the right behaviours, by making our working environment more compassionate and flexible. By actively mentoring and supporting them both formally and informally. As important though is to build a pipeline of women starting at school who see such careers as attainable and worthwhile.
What is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?
Aim high, and find your joy. Whatever you choose to do in life, make it something that makes you happy.
Is there anyone that inspires you in your career?
Inspires generally - my Mum. She raised me in extremely difficult circumstances and I would not be who I am without her.
What are you most proud of?
My two godsons. I had ovarian cancer, so no kids of my own, but my cousin and his wife gave me the gift of two godsons, who have grown into the kindest, funniest, brightest men. I swell up with love and pride when I think about them.
Why do you think diversity in the workplace is so important?
Simple. The widest diversity in mindset and inputs will result in the best thought through outputs, which cover all the angles. We are more likely to succeed through diversity than not.
What did you dream of doing when you were a little girl?
My mum always said I would either be an actress, a politician or an accountant. Given I have done amateur dramatics, work in the public sector and actually am an accountant, I think I tick all three boxes!
If you could have dinner with three inspirational women, dead or alive, who would they be and why?
My mum, obviously, Queen Boudicca (original Essex girl power role model!) and Victoria Wood - what a laugh we would have!