International Women’s Day 2021 #ChooseToChallenge - Linda Wyatt
8 March 2021
International Women’s Day 2021 #ChooseToChallenge - Linda Wyatt talks openly about how her experiences of working in a male dominated sector have shaped her thoughts as CEO of AIM Group.
A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day.
We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.
From challenge comes change, so let's all choose to challenge.
I joined the company in 2006 as CEO and regional director as at that time, the company name was OCN East Midlands Region and was part of the National Open College Network.
Since that time, there have been many changes in the education sector, and for me, not least of these was the move away from NOCN to become an independent national Awarding Organisation, branded as AIM Awards and now AIM Group.
I started my career with the aspiration to be a dietitian. I realised during my training that this was a female-dominated profession with, at that time, a lesser standing in the medical teams than other health care professions. I therefore, moved into the area of food research, also part of my degree and was a management trainee in United Biscuits. I became a teacher when we decided to have children as childcare would be an issue during school holidays. I worked in further education, starting as a lecturer in Burton College and eventually leaving to come to AIM when I was a Head of Faculty. I worked initially in the science and engineering department, very much a male-dominated world and encountered comments and treatment which, today, would be counted as sexist and sexual discrimination. It seemed all through the time I was building my career that I was pushing against a glass ceiling and that I had to work harder and never show that my family commitments had any impact on my ability to put in as many hours as the principal deemed necessary, no matter what was stipulated in my contract. He truly believed that women belonged in the home! There was a single female in the senior management team throughout my time in college and when I left, there were none.
After I was appointed to my role as CEO, I was determined that the culture would not favour any gender, that all would be equal. I have actively discouraged ‘presentism’ and promoted flexible working patterns. I had a male Chair of the BOT for 14 years but now have a female who is a strong role model. I think the ethos of the company ensures that women feel as empowered as men in the organisation and the challenge really has been to appoint men to roles in the organisation rather than actively ensure that sufficient female role models are there. I have always believed that everyone should be encouraged and supported to develop their careers with the correct CPD and the opportunities to pursue their ambitions, which has meant losing some very talented individuals to other organisations where opportunities did not exist within the company.
I have learned that you can achieve your potential if you are strong and don’t give up. I have been lucky in having the full support of my family to pursue my ambitions and that certainly helps if you are balancing home and work. I have worked with people rather than using confrontation to overcome barriers and that tolerance has won me friends rather than enemies and the respect of my peers, be they male or female. My advice to other women is to never let go of your dreams and remember that all are equal in the workplace unless you allow it to be otherwise.
Linda Wyatt, Chief Executive Officer, AIM Qualifications and Assessment Group