Get to know Rachel Schofield – Senior Facilitator

What’s been a defining moment for you as woman in your career? 

A formative moment that stayed with me was early in my presenting career at the BBC. I’d been live on air handling slippery politicians, challenging breaking news and complex foreign affairs, and out of the blue got an email from a senior news executive I’d never spoken to about my choice of necklace. It was, he said, “possibly distracting” and I might want to think about something plainer. It felt like the strangest intervention (especially as the jewellery in question was hardly Picasso-esque, merely an attempt to express a little individuality). Not a word about my journalism, my interviewing technique or my presentation skills. It was a powerful lesson in feedback and how not to give it. And an early indication that women could be subject to an altogether different set of expectations and measurement of expertise. I was both crushed and enraged! If only I could go back and rewrite the demure email I sent him in reply.  

What’s your view on the current state of gender equity? 

As something of an incomer to the corporate world, I’m enjoying being in investigative mode. I’ve come to Shape with a wealth of experience in facilitation and coaching but my engagement with the gender equity debate has been that of a journalist, scrutinising government policy, party manifestos and working at the macro level. That gives you one view of what still needs doing. The joy of working with Shape is that you get your hands dirty on the ground, where the statistics and policies come with a human face. We see what individual companies truly need support with, the importance of culture, systems and leadership and how the big picture on gender equity needs to be advanced at the micro level. Sound bites are easy. Making it a reality is where we all need to step up.  

What is your own experience of the Three Barriers and what tips would you give women navigating their own barriers? 

So much of Shape Talent’s “ Three Barriers Model” resonates with me, and indeed with the female career coaching clients I work with in my private practice. But the biggest challenges in my experience are always connected with motherhood. It’s a huge privilege and a joy, but also pivotal across all of the barriers we highlight – societal, personal and organisational. We still have a long way to go to eliminate the motherhood penalty, properly support fathers to take an equal role in parenting, provide affordable childcare and create workplaces and cultures that recognise the realities of parenthood. Much of this falls to government and businesses, but for women looking for empowering actions they can take in their own lives, the first thing you should do is read “The Mother of All Jobs: How to Have Children and a Career and Stay Sane(ish)” by Christine Armstrong”. There is so much practical advice in there, it should be issued to all women (and their partners) as they leave the hospital clutching their 12-week scan.        

What else have you read recently? 

I’m a notorious “dipper” when it comes to reading.  I’ll read novels in their entirety whilst tucked up in bed, but I’m prone to just dip into non-fiction for a burst of inspiration, practical advice or a new perspective. So “The Authority Gap: Why women are still taken less seriously than men, and what we can do about it” by Mary Ann Sieghart and “Invisible Women: Exposing the gender bias women face every day” by Caroline Criado Perez are both perfect for a foray into something challenging and thought-provoking. (Any more than dipping and I might throw something in a fit of rage). And when I’m supporting my career coaching clients, I love to dip into Amy Gallo’s “Getting Along: How To Work with Anyone, even Difficult People”, “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert and “Time to Think” by Nancy Klein.