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TGt Meets...Claire Brewerton, Managing Director of Virtual Business Centre - IWD Special
Today we meet Claire Brewerton who is managing director of Wiltshire based Virtual Business Centre which offers telephone answering and telemarketing solutions to the SME market.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #choosetochallenge – what would you choose to challenge when it comes to gender equality or inequality?
I believe we should exist in a #genderequalworld – it is how I have tried to raise my family –to understand there is no glass ceiling in life - irrespective of gender and regardless of the work that is required to be undertaken. At home or in the workplace, life is about playing a collective effort. My awesome daughter this year is hoping to study maths at university – and I would be delighted if when she arrives the course is fully inclusive for all.
Thinking of your own experience in the world of business – which inequalities, if any, have you experienced personally or witnessed around gender?
At one of my first interviews for a new job in recruitment, after getting recently married I was asked if I was planning on starting a family in the near future?
I think institutional barriers do exist that can hold women back but I think these are being challenged collectively irrespective of gender.
Have you during your career ever challenged a situation where you felt a woman (even it’s yourself) has been disadvantaged by gender?
In my business – which is telephone answering and telemarketing –with some of our smaller clients it is not untypical for the caller to ask if we are “the partner/wife” of the person they are calling for.
In other scenarios if the guys answer the telephone it is not untypical for the caller to assume they are talking to the owner of the business – so I guess it works both way…on a small level we are challenging and questioning stereotypes.
I regularly get asked on my own business line if they can talk to the owner of the business – but I put that down to the lack of research the caller has made prior to the call rather than it being a gender assumption.
When I first started the business – it was often men I was pitching my business to – but again that might well be a sign of the times… as the saying goes “behind every great man is a great woman”.
Is gender important when it comes to success in business?
No – I believe gender makes little difference. I think success comes from a lot of inner strength and from support to build a successful business. My husband and I run our business together but we recognise our key strengths and weaknesses. In my view gender equality is everyone’s business.
Can you name any women in business you admire?
My mum Barbara Cooper is my greatest role model – she ran her own businesses throughout my childhood and set a good example on how to accommodate a good work life balance.
Margaret Thatcher – when I was at university I went to see Margaret Thatcher give a speech – regardless of my political views I took away from her speech a feeling that I could achieve anything.
Can you name any man in business you admire?
Theo Paphitis – by launching #SBS (Small Business Sunday) he has recognised winners from all walks of life –regardless of gender – from small cottage industries to larger businesses – all with a desire to grow and succeed their business.
Marc Brewerton – for his divide and rule approach to life – regardless of what needs to be done at work or at home!
Do you think women who start their own business experience more challenges than men?
I believe there is still a lot of unconscious bias in society which can make some women’s experiences in business more challenging because they may be perceived by some to be challenging the status quo but this is why we #choosetochallenge.
What do you think about the gender pay gap?
In the businesses i have worked in and run – I have never experienced it – the job is the job and should be paid accordingly. I do not believe that there should be any grounds for a gender pay gap.
What do you think about the International Women’s Day movement?
Anything that makes people ask questions and challenge assumptions is always a good thing – but my personal view is that it takes a collective effort to stop finger pointing.
For more information visit www.virtualbusinesscentre.com
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