“Feminism isn’t about making women strong. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength.”
Reporter Beth Hughes on behalf of the Denbighshire Free Press sits down with Lyons senior management staff to discover what it’s like being a woman who means business in a man’s world.
“Women are the stronger sex.” This seems to synchronise with the values of today’s International Women’s Day (March 8). But this only leads to a debate about the battle of the sexes; the right to claim gender-based roles; who has more economic worth; who should or should not cry.
But there should not be a need to claim the title of a ‘stronger gender.’
As pivotal as the 21st-century movement is towards empowering women, that opening statement is something that will not be discussed, especially for a North Wales holiday group, which has happened to double its female workforce during the coronavirus pandemic.
Today, the 100-year-old company Lyons Holiday Parks, with 13 parks across the region – including Denbighshire, Flintshire and Conwy – celebrates the fact that the majority of senior roles are now occupied by women.
This isn’t an impassioned uproar against the patriarchy, in fact, it’s an insight into how both genders work harmoniously to achieve a common goal.
As company director, Joseph Lyons Mound said: “It’s not about whether they’re male or female. It’s about who can get the job done best.
“So far, we have found that’s women.”
We gain an insight into these powerful women who work within a leading business, often considered a man’s world.
Lorraine Smith, HR & recruitment manager:
“Progression and succession,” that’s what it’s all about. Lorraine added: “Our strategy when recruiting is to attract the best talent, to be fair and transparent and champion diversity.
“We are of course an equal opportunities employer, but since the start of the pandemic, head office has recruited 10 employees, nine female, three of which are senior management positions.
“In my 21 years in the leisure and hospitality industry, I have always found diversity is not about race, age or gender. In my opinion, it is about attitude, personality and service with a smile.
“If I could give advice to my younger self, it would be to believe in yourself and your ability, go for your dreams.”
Mhairi Kelly, area sales manager:
With over two decades of experience in the tourism and leisure industry, Mhairi is passionate about imparting her wisdom to the younger generation.
She said: “I’m living proof that you can do anything you want if you are willing enough, and if you go for it. I joined as a character for a local company at 37-years-old. My job before that was bringing my kids up.
“I went on to be a sales manager, then a trainer, but I knew that I wanted to become a manager. I quickly learned when I went into sales that I had to work much harder than my male counterparts.
“Men were seen to be more aggressive but sales should not be aggressive. It’s a customer-focused business and I think it’s a known fact that emotional intelligence is found more in women – they demonstrate empathy. And I don’t even know if gender assumptions in sales have levelled out completely yet.”
Chloe Woodcock, marketing manager:
The digital marketing world is a realm that’s ready for more women, according to Chloe, with a push in funding for ‘women who code.’ Such things are a rarity.
“Things you consider ‘tech’ are always for men. I feel like I wasn’t expected to know those ‘techy’ things, that a woman wouldn’t understand or know the terminology.
“It was another point that made me really want to learn more about the technical side of marketing because I felt like I wanted to bridge the gap – and the gap was actually me being a woman.”
When recruiting, Chloe has noted that around 90% of social media applicants are women. She said: “It’s believed that things need to be more flowery and soft for social, and I think that’s something we perceive that women find easier. But I always think it needs input from all sides.
“The thing about International Women’s Day is, it actually works for the benefit of both, or all, sexes. I want to see men integrating into what are seen as ‘feminine roles’: social media assistants, customer services, reception.”
Michelle McKelvie, group holiday sales manager:
The latest addition to the group, Michelle, believes the industry was inundated with gender-driven roles when she started out 17 years ago.
“In the business I previously worked for, I felt that the leadership team was predominantly male – and that made it difficult when trying to voice opinions.
“Prior to joining Lyons, I was head of facilities at another park. I looked after male-dominated areas of the business such as maintenance, security, grounds and gardens. Whilst in that role, I started to introduce females into the grounds and gardening team which brought a real eye for detail and colour. This showed more creativity.
“Each business needs a balance in all areas of equality. When I wanted to progress throughout my career, I was pushed back. Because the role I wanted was a ‘man’s job’.
“My advice is don’t give up trying. If the business you are with doesn’t see the value in what you offer, find a business that does! Don’t be afraid of that change.”
Women’s main role in life:
Each of these women was faced with the question ‘what is your main role in life?’ and each answered ‘being a mother.’ All but one blushed, and somewhat sheepishly admitted that being a parent was the sole focus of their existence.
One considered whether to answer ‘being a mum’ was too cliché. But there’s no reason why this method of bringing up a family can’t be transcribed into the working world. In fact, it’s what Mhairi dubs as a strong option in moving forward.
She said: “I think the professional world forgets that a homemaker is already running a small business. Cost-control, balancing bills, time management, managing a family, extracurriculars, their own jobs, transport and logistics. We respect that women are doing these things not just in business, but at home.”
For Chloe in particular, being a mother “does define who I am”. But raising a small child also motivates her career. “I feel like the expectation from society is that I can only do one or the other. But I can do both. It is possible if that’s what you want.”
It’s time women voiced their pride in all their abilities. Today is a day to celebrate female empowerment in all roles – whether that’s at entry-level, management, CEO or motherhood.
To find out more about progression and succession visit the Lyons recruitment page here.