Tags: Women in the Workplace, Hot Topics, blog

My name is Emma Piper. I'm Head of Recruitment for a charity called Autism Plus. We support vulnerable adults who are autistic or with learning disabilities, and sometimes mental health conditions.

What do I choose to challenge in 2021?

I think one of my main priorities is ways of working. During the pandemic, it's taught us that for certain roles, mainly back office roles, we are able to work from home and be productive. So for me, the challenge is how we take that forward. We need to provide more flexibility for the current employees, so that we interest all sorts of people including women, and indeed parents with children. We need to remain competitive, because a lot of candidates will now expect that flexibility moving forward.

What needs to change to achieve gender equality in my industry?

​I work in social care, so it's actually very female dominated. Something that we're looking at is actually attracting more males to the sector, and to attract more people from outside of the sector. I think there's definitely a perception that care is about looking after the elderly, that's not the case obviously, and there are a lot of roles support worker roles that are diverse and varied. For me, it's definitely about getting the message out around what different care roles look like, trying to attract people from outside of the sector.

What three tips or pieces of advice would I give to women looking to further develop their careers in your industry?

I think I need to focus on the three things generically in my career, in whichever industry I was working in. The first one would be to know what your goals are and how you're going to get to those goals. Within that, it's not just about hard work, which is obviously very important, but it's actually about working smart. Not being a busy fool, but having that plan about how you're going to achieve those aims and goals.

The second would be to focus on yourself outside of work. It's not all about work, and if it is, you're probably not going to be as productive as you would be. I think it's really important to be happy in yourself in order to be happy in work. And when you are happy in yourself, you are more productive, so having that focus on your well-being is is really important.

Then the last one would be to be open and flexible. I think it's really important to if you want to move up. Have that type of attitude where you'll listen to other people's ideas, be open to new ones, and also work flexibly. Be flexible and show flexibility as well, in your ways of working.

What am I most proud of personally?

That is an easy one for me. I have a 13 year old son who is autistic, and I'm very proud of the journey that we've been on over the last few years. It definitely hasn't been easy, but my son was at home for a number of years because there was no suitable educational setting for him. I really, really battled in a system that unfortunately and doesn't work very well for children like him in terms of finding him the right setting. So, not only was it home for a couple of years full-time, but before that, he only went to school for an hour a day. I'm proud of the way that we've worked through that together. I'm really really proud of him now settling into a new school.

Last september he started at a residential specialist autism school, and he's really thriving. A lot of children will struggle with any kind of change, but when you're autistic that's usually one of the challenges, and that's certainly one of his challenges. I'm really proud of how he's eventually settled into that environment and he's now thriving. He's calmer, happier, and using their strategies today to cope with his anxieties.

What am I most proud of professionally?

That's definitely where I've got to in my career, so the last 11 years i've worked in-house in recruitment roles. Before that, I worked on the recruitment agency side, including having my own business for 10 years. After that period, I decided I wanted to go in an in-house role, and it was really difficult to get my foot in the door at the time. But I did get a foot in the door and my salary was halved. Now I've worked my way up, and I have headed up various recruitment departments, different companies, all whilst being a single mum to a child who has additional needs. It's been busy, but really fun.

Who has inspired me in my career?

That's definitely my dad. Unfortunately he passed away 20 years ago now, but he came from nothing. He came from a very poor background, got thrown out of school when he was 15. Through great determination, and hard work, he built up a really successful business. He taught me that you should always have a positive mental attitude. He had a bit of a saying "PMA". I would say that i'm very positive person, and he's he helped me with that. He was very kind and fair, and that has also been instilled into me growing up.

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