It’s time for ‘sleepy Norfolk’ to wake up

Claire Cullens, Michelle Raper and Elizabeth Claxton. Picture: Nick Butcher

Claire Cullens, Michelle Raper and Elizabeth Claxton. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2017

Michelle Raper of Rostrons accountants is a co-founder of women’s mentoring group We Can.

Business feature with Rostrons chartered Accountants. Michelle Raper, Director.Business feature with Rostrons chartered Accountants. Michelle Raper, Director.

Norfolk is known as “sleepy Norfolk” as a result of the fact that it is slightly cut off from the rest of the UK by poor transport links and the lack of a major city – Norwich being relatively small.

As a consequence it does not attract individuals from other parts of the country or world to the same degree as other areas and therefore has a less diverse demographic.

This has always resulted in Norfolk being slightly behind the curve, and we believe this is true regarding gender diversification. Fresh blood always brings innovation and change.

As a consequence, Norfolk still has a strong sense of tradition including the “old boys” network, which has restricted the pace of change for women and the opportunity to achieve board or leadership roles.

We do, however, believe this is changing and there is now a strong appetite for change in the region.

We do not believe there is any kind of movement to increase the barriers for women to achieve or indeed any intention to discriminate, simply tradition that is taking longer in sleepy Norfolk to change.

Of course, we all know Norfolk is not sleepy at all and is in fact vibrant, ground-breaking and has significant opportunities in varying sectors. There is so much we could say about the success of Norfolk, including the University of East Anglia, Hethel Engineering Centre, NCFC and Norwich Research Park.

But, when discovered, Norfolk is often seen by outsiders as a place to settle to bring up children and achieve improved quality of life. As a consequence those coming in don’t necessarily have any desire to climb the career ladder as it has often been achieved elsewhere.

Women in Norfolk, as you would expect, do suffer from all the normal barriers, the main being the juggle between career and family and access to flexible working conditions.

We believe the county will catch up – it just takes time. We Can is a clear indicator of the tangible amount of desire for change and the fact that we already have an incredible pool of women in senior roles.

We Can is a mentoring programme to help ambitious young women progress into senior roles. It was founded by Rostrons directors Michelle Raper and Elizabeth Claxton and former business development manager Claire Cullens.

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