Gorse Burrett – Head of HR at Triodos Bank – who will be speaking at our Catalyst Bootcamp, tells us here about her own experiences negotiating gender challenges in the workplace.

Provide a brief overview of the path that took you to this job – including education, training, internships, any positions that were particularly significant; any shifts in direction.

I studied at Drama School which taught me some skills around understanding people and human motivation. Whilst studying I worked in retail as a Saturday sales assistant for Jigsaw.

Following graduation I was a jobbing actress supporting myself in London and fell into working for a large Financial Services organsation. I relished the challenge and pace of the industry as well as meeting some inspirational people who helped mentor and support me in the early part of my career.

I was part of an organisation that impacted on the 2008 financial crash. This experience shaped my thinking and brought into sharp focus the requirement for senior people to be held to account for their actions.

Following the birth of my children I took 3 years away from work to look after them. This gave me welcome perspective and helped shape my priorities and realign my values about giving back to society.

Triodos Bank finances companies, institutions and projects that add cultural value and benefit people and the environment, with the support of depositors and investors who want to encourage corporate social responsibility and a sustainable society.

What does unconscious bias mean to you? Do you have an example of when you have experienced unconscious bias (either a bias you have about yourself or a bias that someone else has about you)? What can we do to address our own unconscious bias and to challenge/call out other people’s?

My son recently asked me to paint his toenails. Whilst completing the request my questions to him illustrated my bias. We all have unconscious bias and unless we become conscious of it we are unlikely to take any action.

What experiences do you have of negotiating your work benefits, including pay? What approaches do you take to such negotiations?

I have many experiences of negotiating benefits for myself and for others. My advice and approach is that you should negotiate carefully at the point of being hired or promoted. This is the best opportunity to make clear what is important from your perspective. Remember pay is only part of the package.

What advice would you pass on to young women about assertiveness and negotiations generally – what are some dos and don’ts?
Do your homework
Think about your body language and approach
Practice with someone you trust
Be authentically you
Avoid disclaimers: I may be wrong but
Don’t allow yourself to be interrupted
Eliminate words like try and but
Emphasise the things you have done and not the things you haven’t

Do you think gender-based discrimination (including harassment) is a contemporaneous issue in the workplace? Is this changing? What can we all do to promote change?

Triodos are a very good company to work for and I am proud to say that equality is at the forefront of everything we do. This is illustrated in our hiring, promotion and work practices. My personal experience outside Triodos has not always been so positive. As a mother of young women (15 and 8) I am acutely aware that there is still a great deal to be done. That’s why I am here today.

Do you consider that workplaces provide sufficient support to prevent and address anxiety and stress? What experiences have you got of good or bad practices? What advice would you provide to young women to manage work-based stress and anxiety?

At Triodos we take wellbeing very seriously. We have a wellbeing room for co-workers, yoga and meditation lunchtime sessions and a wellbeing allowance of £100 to invest in something that provides individual support to that co-workers wellbeing. We have 15 trained mental health first aiders. These co-workers are known to the whole office and are there to support anyone in times of need. Mental health, physical health and financial health are all linked and I am pleased that businesses are getting better at acknowledging that they have a responsibility in providing support and engagement on these areas that matter and impact on each of us.

In terms of bad practice there are numerous companies that do not take their responsibilities in this area seriously.

My advice to manage work-based stress is to take time out of your daily job for reflective practice. This could include taking a walk with a friend/colleague, writing down your concerns, doodling or reminding yourself of what you have accomplished. This can have a positive impact on your vitality and energy levels. Taking proper breaks for food and water are also very important and often get forgotten during stressful periods.

Gorse will be speaking at a panel discussion on ‘Negotiating Gender Challenges in the workplace’ on 2nd August at our Catalyst Bootcamp.