International Women’s Day
“Women need to have confidence in themselves and a belief that they can be successful in senior management roles”
8th March is International Women’s Day, a celebration of the economic, political and social achievements of women. In honour of the celebrations we interviewed Sandra Dodd, CEO of Places for People Leisure (PfPL).
Sandra shares her career progression, her views on women’s position within senior management roles in the leisure industry and her top tips and advice for women looking to build a successful career within leisure.
What attracted you to a career within the leisure industry?
I started my career with the company in 1995. It came about almost by chance as I was working as an accountant for a construction and Facilities Management company who had entered a joint venture agreement with DC Leisure. I soon found that I had a greater affinity with the leisure business and was delighted to be offered the position of Company Accountant with DC Leisure (now PfPL). What do you think are the biggest barriers preventing women progressing to senior management roles within the leisure industry?
I think that our industry has historically been very male dominated. Perhaps this is because more men than women undertake physical activity and subsequently are attracted to careers in the industry. I really believe this will change in the future – we are seeing more women on our Rising Stars programme and also more than 50% of our Group Managers based at our central support office are female.
Women are still often seen as the main family carer and it can be a difficult balancing act to fulfil a senior management role alongside family commitments. However, there are definite signs of this changing and nowadays men are taking a very active role in child care and hopefully shared paternity leave will help in this regard. I also think that women need to have confidence in themselves and a belief that they can be successful in senior management roles.
Which women have most inspired you? This is a difficult question to answer I have been inspired by many women and men and particularly those who have overcome significant barriers to achieve their goals and of course those who have strived to improve people’s lives through great personal sacrifice.
What is the best careers advice you ever received and who gave it to you?
I’m not sure that I can say I was given one best piece of careers advice. I have always been very driven and self-motivated to achieve. Being encouraged to do my accountancy exams by family and friends was probably the best decision I made as this provided a stepping stone to a senior management position. I would say to others that you should always try to find a role that interests and motivates you and wherever possible to hold a qualification that is applicable to your role.
How do you feel the leisure industry should be supporting female talent and women’s progression into senior roles?
Through training and an acceptance that women are capable of undertaking management positions within the leisure sector. Currently 60% of our workforce is female but only 25% of our General Managers are females. Our opening hours allow a lot of flexibility to women who have family commitments, which is why I believe we have a higher percentage of women working in our business and I’m sure this is typical across our industry.
The industry needs to ensure that it offers career progression to women working on a part and full time basis. Another consideration is to ensure that women who wish to undertake study or training at a more mature age (perhaps through reducing family commitments) are considered alongside younger staff.
What would be your advice to female colleagues in the industry who are looking to move into senior management roles?
Set yourself a goal at all times to progress to the next level of your career. Go the extra mile to get yourself noticed by your line manager and senior staff. Congratulate yourself as you succeed and set the next goal. Believe in yourself - you are just as capable as male senior managers. In addition I would encourage women (and men) wishing to progress in the industry to ensure that they pursue relevant qualifications and participate in all of the training opportunities they are offered. I did not really embark on my career until I reached my thirties as I choose to be a full time Mum for ten years. I would say that it is never too late to start your career whatever your age or gender.
What do you enjoy most about working for Places for People Leisure?
I love the staff who work for our company. It is so refreshing to work with people who really care about the difference they make to the lives of people in the communities in which we operate. Having previously worked in the finance and construction sector it is great to work in a fun environment that is easy to identify with and employs such passionate staff.