TGt Meets... Francine Sharrocks, Founder of Findmysexpert - IWD Special
Today we're talking to Francine Sharrocks who is founder of findmysexpert which is a sexual wellness platform that puts the public in touch with certified sexuality professionals, their events, courses and more. It's an online platform for bios, blogs from certified professionals.
What do you #choosetochallenge?
I choose to challenge that gender is not just male and female only. There is a wider gender spectrum and I believe business owners should be open to re-educating themselves to this so that they can provide a fully inclusive work environment.
I also choose to challenge that gender should never be a reason for somebody being held back, to be lesser than or not equal to another.
Thinking of your own experience in the world of business – which inequalities, if any, have you experienced personally or witnessed around gender?
Of course, I’ve experienced gender biased remarks and or attitudes in my life but I believe it is a choice to let others ideals de-rail you. I firmly believe nobody can make you feel good without your say so and equally nobody can make you feel bad without your say so. How you view something determines your feeling state.
Of course, it helps to be around likeminded people and that isn’t always possible in a work environment. Challenging a construct like gender bias is very difficult if it is an ingrained belief of a company or work environment.
I am extremely fortunate that I can say I haven’t witnessed gender inequality that has had a detrimental impact. Mostly I see women harness these interactions by creating a deeper drive to succeed. I suppose the counter argument to this is that women feel that have to work harder to prove themselves. Personally, I have never felt this pressure in any or my work environments to date.
I’m am very lucky I grew up in a home where everything was equal between me and my brother, my mother and father.
Although our home had very traditional values, mum was able to stay at home while dad worked. I was still brought up with the firm belief that limits were only what we place on ourselves and if you want something enough you will achieve it despite anybody else’s ideals or attempts to hold you back.
Is gender important in business?
I don’t believe gender is important in business for me it is what an individual can bring to a business, their knowledge, skills, experiences, ideas. Personally I look to work with people of integrity, honestly, with easy going personalities who I can build trust with.
To work with a single gender to me feels limiting but I do understand it. I am part of WOST – Women of Sex Tech and the aims of WOST is to bring women who work in a male dominated industry together to learn and to support each other. I see and feel the benefits of being in this community but I am still open to working with other genders too as we can learn something from everyone we meet.
I see the value of how gender can bring comfort in business. If for example you have a client who would rather work with a female because they are female and this brings them comfort. Here I see the value in utilising gender to make somebody feel comfortable as it could bring about beneficial outcomes like, closing a deal or building trusting partnerships.
However typically It is not something I would be inclined to use as a rule of thumb. Negotiation and making somebody feel comfortable are skills all genders can develop.
Is gender important when it comes to success in business?
I don’t believe gender should play a part in success I think hard work, determination and perseverance and opportunities that cross our path make us successful.
I am happy for anybody in business who is successful but what is the definition of success?
For me success is how you treat those who work for/with you how you give back, what changes you make because you have the capacity to make things easier or to support others. For example, treating employers fairly, providing a livable wage.
These qualities can be typical of all genders and are far more important that being a male founder or female CEO.
I would rather work with a 'less successfu'l female CEO who has integrity and looks after her staff than work with a super successful male CEO who cannot give his employees the time of day.
I believe everyone brings their own talents and skills to business and these are independent of gender. However, I do believe some people consider certain attributes belong to certain genders, for example women are more nurturing, caring and better at organising and men can be stronger leaders or better in a boardroom. I can honestly say I have seen these qualities across the gender spectrum.
Can you name up any women in business you admire?
I’m inspired by my mum. When I discussed this year’s theme of IWD 2021 with her, she told me that her perceptions from childhood was men were the decision makers, those in charge and had power and were to be deferred to.
This was news to me as my mum had introduced to me an entirely different upbringing. It amazes me that this strongly held experience of my mum's from childhood has never filtered down to me.
I am grateful that she has always provided me with a positive and equal outlook. In fact, through her work as a youth and community Leader she introduced me to International Women’s Day from an early age, something I already do with my two girls.
I am also inspired by my late Auntie Mary who was a feminist activist hippy! She had a huge impact on my life in formulating and shaping my views and opinions. We would have great debates and I had a huge amount of respect for her as she had been part of many protests and marches for human rights and justice. She worked in HR for the local council and also as a union representative and so she had experienced gender inequality on a daily basis. She was a fighter, fearless in challenging those in a higher rank to her and hated injustice.
My most admired business woman is Tracy Sheppard who is the Founder of Talk First which is a CIO based in Wigan. I am inspired by Tracy as she set up the charity almost singlehandedly when she found out her role at Wigan Youth Offending Team was under threat.
She knew the job cuts were imminent but she also knew the negative implications the job cuts would have on the lives of young people in Wigan. She had a vision in how she could maintain the current provisions and also keep herself employed. Tracy was successful and the charity has grown from strength to strength since 2012.
I am inspired by how Tracy has pivoted the charity over the years to reach those most vulnerable. The Talk First charity offers struggling families mediation to work through their differences and find alternatives and reach amicable solutions. Much of the work Tracy and her team deliver help build stronger more resilient families.
Can you name any men in business you admire?
Although I was brought up with very traditional family values and roles as my dad worked and my mum stayed at home with me and my older brother until we were five, my dad was supportive and encouraged my mum to have a career and take opportunities like training in the evenings so she could progress.
I’m very fortunate to have seen this supportive behaviour much of which came from my dad’s greatest life influencer - his boss Sam Laskier. From the age of 16 until retirement my dad worked for the same company a menswear wholesaler which was founded by Sam Laskia who was a Holocaust survivor and a former prisoner of the concentration camp Auschwitz.
My Uncle Sam was a fantastic business man growing a business from nothing with his wife Blanch. My dad was influenced by this power duo from a young age. Sam and Blanch were exceptional employers. My dad was late one day and when he told them it was because of the bus they said well that’s not good enough and they bought him his first car, so that he would never be late again!
When that same car failed him to get to work one morning they bought him a new engine for that car.
I have been influenced by this kindness and generosity from a young age. Seeing this level of generosity from somebody who has been so mistreated himself at a young age is inspiring.
I believe Uncle Sam and his wife were great teachers for my dad and in turn great teachers for me.
What do you think about the International Women’s Day movement?
I believe all people should have a voice. I don’t believe in censoring conversations; we should make challenging injustice easier and look to remove barriers so people can have their say. Conversation is about hearing people and being heard.
International Women’s Day brings opportunities for conversation so yes, it is very important movement for me. As a business owner and potential employer in the future I want to know if there is anything, I can be doing differently to ease other's experiences and to bring about real and beneficial changes.
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