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Does being a woman automatically hold people back in the workplace?

PUBLISHED: 10:25 28 November 2017 | UPDATED: 10:44 28 November 2017

Tricia Fuller, group HR director at Norse (right) with her daughter Ciara Eastell, chief executive of Libraries Unlimited, as Ciara receives her OBE for services to libraries. Picture: C/O Tricia Fuller

Tricia Fuller, group HR director at Norse (right) with her daughter Ciara Eastell, chief executive of Libraries Unlimited, as Ciara receives her OBE for services to libraries. Picture: C/O Tricia Fuller

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Does being a woman automatically hold people back in the workplace? Bethany Whymark hears two very different experiences.

Tricia Fuller, group HR director at services giant Norse, is a force to be reckoned with.

After abandoning a potential career in teaching, the Irishwoman – who calls Norfolk her “spiritual home” – progressed from the retail shop floor to become one of the county’s most experienced personnel executives.

Her drive has rubbed off on her daughter, who is a well respected female figure on the British library scene.

But how have the women’s personalities been shaped by their professional experiences and their generation?

Tricia believes she was “incredibly fortunate” to join Norse Commercial Services in 1990, before the group grew into the behemoth it is today, and that growing up with the company was beneficial for her own development.

She said: “When I joined I was a personnel manager with four staff. Now I have a team of 160 across a number of disciplines.

“I have grown my career as the organisation has grown and have been able to play to my strengths.”

But her gender did present barriers. “When I was building my career I think you had to have male attributes, to be tough and resilient,” she said. “Discussions about family and children didn’t happen. Now I love the fact that I have a young team working for me, some of whom are young mothers and fathers. That cultural shift is really positive.”

Tricia’s daughter, Ciara Eastell, is one of these young working mothers. Ciara is also a high-flyer – she has two degrees and is currently chief executive of Libraries Unlimited, which runs the library service in her home county of Devon. She recently received an OBE for her services to libraries.

Tricia believes her “quietly determined” daughter has been able to retain more feminine qualities in her career.

“In my generation you had to be louder and more strident. Some young women now say they don’t want to move up if they have to be like that, so you have to make sure they understand the reasons why you evolved that way.”

In her mother’s eyes, Ciara is also more at ease with her dual status of mother and boss.

Tricia said: “One of the hardest things about being a woman is blending family life and work life. But sometimes they [women] underestimate the opportunities they have got. More experienced women such as me have a responsibility to debunk those thoughts.”

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