Gemma McCall is CEO and Co-founder of Tech for good business Culture Shift and is sharing her life lessons with us on this week’s Northern Power Women podcast (available to listen to now!). In sharing her life lessons with the Northern Power Women community, Gemma gave us an insight into her personal experiences in building resilience, the importance of your support network as well as advice for those who are at the start of their career. I caught up with Gemma to discuss some of the points she mentioned in her life lessons.
During the podcast, Gemma spoke of a particularly demanding period of her life in which she was made redundant after returning to work from maternity leave. Suffering from knocked confidence, as well as feelings of isolation and low self-esteem, Gemma wishes now that she had made the most of the support network of friends and family who would have offered help.
“I didn’t seek help, I just got my head down and got on with my next job, and actually it was a mistake not to look around me, tap into the networks that are out there that could’ve helped me through that time”. Not wanting others to experience that feeling of isolation, Gemma expanded on this life lesson in our discussion together, and highlighted the importance of using her squad of cheerleaders to celebrate her achievements and keep her grounded. “If you don’t think you have a network, you do”, she said. “If you talk to friends or trusted colleagues, it’s not happening to you in isolation, […] people are keen to help, keen to share their own experiences that could help you process it, and signpost you to different services”.
We also got the chance to go discuss the reflections and regrets she has encountered throughout her career, and how “now (Gemma) can look back and know that all of those moments, and let’s face it, mistakes, have brought (her) to this moment”. She remarked how at the time of being made redundant, she felt like the number of options available to her were drastically reduced. “I just regret not doing more research about my rights as a working mum, and having the confidence to know that it was not my fault, it was the business behaving poorly”. Gemma also highlighted how motherhood has changed her stance on activism, and how it motivates her to create real social change for the next generations. “I absolutely do consider myself an activist now […] I was more ready to accept things happening to me, but I am not willing to sit here and do nothing so that my daughter has to accept them when she grows up”. This drive to create positive and lasting social change is reflected in her work at Culture Shift.
Culture shift offers a platform for team members within an organisation or institution to report incidents of harassment or misconduct in the workplace. In one of their first collaborations with The University of Manchester, Gemma began to understand the prevalence of sexual harassment in large institutions. “During their time at university around 80% of students will experience some kind of sexual harassment or assault, but only 2% would report it”. As Gemma explained, “there are many barriers to reporting something like that […] we wanted to understand what the barriers were and take steps to remove them”. The first was to take the platform online, allowing people to report at a time and place where they felt most comfortable. “Whenever and wherever, they had access to a system where, at that moment where they wanted to disclose something, they could”. The second barrier that Culture Shift worked to remove was the fear of the repercussions of speaking out. Removal of this barrier in turn goes on to consolidate the trust between an institution and its members. Speaking of her findings when launching the platform at academic institutions, Gemma shared how “in the first year of the system being launched, the majority of reports will be anonymous, and then as they build up trust and are transparent about the action that they’ve taken as a result of the reports, that breaks down further barriers in reporting. Then you get more named reports, which means that people can then access face to face counselling and support”. Use of the platform also provides an institution or organisation with the hard data that reflects their commitments to equality and diversity. As Gemma explained, “using the data gives you a full picture of what’s going on in an organisation”. Culture Shift are now looking to afford this vital service, and the wealth of insight and transparency it provides, to professional services and organisations, such as law firms and financial institutions. For more information about how they can transform your work environment, head to https://www.culture-shift.co.uk/ to find out more.