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Dawn Hampton wants to challenge assumptions about working mothers this International Women's Day

​International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for communities and organisations around the world to raise awareness about accelerating gender parity. Here at Phaidon International, we take this day to celebrate the contributions women make to our business and our daily lives. We sat with Dawn Hampton, our Contracts Director, to talk to her about her career and what International Women’s Day means to her.

Hi Dawn, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your role at Phaidon International?

So, I started in November 2011 to set up the Contracts side of the business and we built it from the ground up. It’s come on hugely since we started and it’s been great to see that grow, it’s kind of like my other baby. Today, I focus more on client engagement and how we can improve their experience with us.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

To me, IWD is a really good opportunity to celebrate women’s achievements. Sometimes, I think that everything important in the world was done by a man. I love that this day, you know, you get the opportunity to read about all these amazing women and what they’ve done to change the world, basically. So, for me, it’s definitely celebrating that. It’s also to remind us about some of the sacrifices that a lot of women went through to allow us to have what we enjoy now, what we see as normal and our right and “why wouldn’t we have that?”. Yet, there are still many women in the world who don’t have the opportunities that we do. We still have a long way to go, it’s a reminder that we can’t be complacent – there’s still a lot of work to do and we all have a part to play in that.

The theme for this year’s IWD is #BalanceforBetter. What do you think companies can do to create better gender balance?

For me, it’s all about coaching and training early. I think women need to feel confident that they have the skills to do a job before they do it. Women tend to apply for jobs they know they can already do. Men apply for jobs they think they can do. For me, it’s about making sure as a business we train our females leadership skills and management skills, to allow them to feel confident and empowered. We need teach women how to do that without feeling they have to downplay their female traits, but utilising them in a positive way instead of having to hide it. Women shouldn’t feel like they can’t be 'a woman' at work.

I do think it’s really important that people recognise that variety inspires progression and innovation. That balance of difference approaches and views creates different ideas, prevents stagnation, and prevents organisations getting too samey or stale or repetitive.

As a mentor and as someone who has built their own success story, what advice do you have to any women starting out in their careers?

I think when you’re first starting out, what’s important to recognise is that you’re now in a totally different environment. So, perception is very important. You’re now in a professional environment – out of education. Your perception may influence what your career looks like in the future and as women, particularly, we have to remember that – more so than men. What they do gets forgotten quickly while what we do, perhaps, doesn’t get forgotten so quickly.

Another thing is don’t wait to ask for stuff. I think women tend to think that we have to being doing better before we ask for something, where men don’t necessarily have that trait. So, don’t wait to ask if you want to do something, if you want to go somewhere, if you want to be something, if you want to climb the ladder. Don’t wait, ask for it.

Are there any assumptions about women that you wish would change?

People’s views about women when they have children. So, assuming they’re not going to come back to work. Asking them all the time if they’re coming back to work. It’s really hard and you feel like all the time you’re justifying yourself. I think as well that people will assume if you have children you’ll have less focus, less commitment, that you won’t work as hard but actually I think they work even harder because they’re having to demonstrate and prove their commitment. For those women who work part time, actually end up doing a full-time job in less hours because they’re having to constantly strive to prove their worth.

Are you struggling to make your workforce more gender balanced? Are you curious to know what employees think about diversity? Download our guide here.