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'There are still challenges' - council officer's work to see women progress in the workplace

PUBLISHED: 14:00 28 November 2017 | UPDATED: 14:00 28 November 2017

Jill Penn, head of finance and revenue services at Broadland District Council. Picture: Simon Finlay

Jill Penn, head of finance and revenue services at Broadland District Council. Picture: Simon Finlay

Copyright Simon Finlay 2017

As part of our women's edition, we spoke to Jill Penn, Broadland District Council's head of finance and revenue services.

Ms Penn has completed a women’s leadership programme and has started a mentoring programme for staff at the council, which aims to improve confidence and allow career progression.

She is also looking at maternity, paternity and parental leave at the council, trying to find out what outcomes will most benefit staff and the organisation.

She is particularly interested in job share roles, encouraging women to ‘partner up’ when a position they would like, but don’t feel they are able to do part-time, becomes available.

“I still think there are challenges for women in the workplace in 2017,” she said.

“I don’t think women should feel that having a baby should hold them back. But I think we are able to voice changes or push forward ideas more than we have done in the past.”

Her own career has had its ups and downs, but she has stayed determined and vows to use her experience to help other women.

“I am lucky because I have worked in different sectors, but it hasn’t always been a straightforward path,” she said.

“After my children were born, I felt I needed to work part-time but that role didn’t work out, so I left and went to a lower-grade job. I felt like I had been sidelined. I realised I needed to be challenged more. I kept challenging myself and I kept pushing to get where I am now.”

Keen on helping people progress, Ms Penn created a survey to find out what might be holding female staff back from applying for more senior positions.

“One of the things that came out of that survey was an appetite for coaching and mentoring,” she said.

“People wanted that support. Sometimes you just need someone to show you how they did it.”

The programme has just been adopted by the council after a six-month trial and has already had positive results, with people being promoted and going for different roles within the organisation.

As the president of the Society of District Council Treasurers, Ms Penn is involved in national decision-making and is in discussion with central government.

She would like her work on women in the workplace to become embedded in policy at Broadland District Council and is keen to see its effects on the next generation.

“When I was studying for my qualifications, I had two young children,” she said.

“It’s not been straightforward but I’m proud of what I have achieved and I still feel there are things I can go on to do.

“I want career progression to be the norm for all women, so they don’t have to sit in a job because they have other responsibilities.”

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