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Jane Rexworthy

Empowering women in the workplace: Insights from our Executive Director on International Women’s Day

08 Mar 2024
People 1st International

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, a day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women and promoting gender equality, we had the privilege of speaking to our Executive Director, Jane Rexworthy about her views and experiences. As a prominent female leader in our organisation, she shared her thoughts on the progress made towards gender equality and the challenges still faced by women in the workplace.

She also reflected on her personal journey and the role models who have inspired her along the way. Despite facing obstacles throughout her career, she has remained determined and resilient, making her mark as a successful leader. Her insights shed light on the importance of empowering women and creating an inclusive work environment where they can thrive.


What does International Women’s Day mean to you? And why do you feel it is important that we celebrate it?

International Women’s Day holds profound significance for me as I now have over 40 years’ experience of being in the workforce, it symbolises and acknowledges women’s remarkable achievements and the empowerment of their voices. It goes beyond mere recognition; it stands as a testament to the invaluable contributions of women in every facet of society. This day celebrates the essence of an inclusive workforce, highlighting the many advantages it offers.


This year’s theme is ‘inspire inclusion’. In your role, tell us a bit about how you support this aim.

In embracing diversity, we recognise that women bring a unique and crucial perspective to the workplace. Their presence not only fosters innovation but also adds a necessary equilibrium at all organisational levels. International Women’s Day, therefore, becomes a platform for not just acknowledging the accomplishments of women but also advocating for a future where gender equality is the norm, ensuring a harmonious and thriving society for everyone.


Have you faced any barriers in your career due to being a woman? If so, how did you overcome them?

In the late 1980s, when I had my children, societal expectations around women in the workforce were vastly different. It was commonplace for women to take a career break after having children, and when I decided to return to the workplace, I faced the common view that women might not resume their careers with the same dedication. Overcoming this challenge required me to exert double the effort compared to my male counterparts to demonstrate my commitment to my career.

Navigating balancing a career with raising children was challenging at that time. However, the experience has shown me the importance of resilience and determination. Today, I appreciate the progress we’ve made in acknowledging the diverse needs of working women. Improved maternity and paternity leave policies, along with phased return options, reflect a positive shift towards supporting individuals in maintaining a work-life balance. While we’ve come a long way, it underscores the ongoing need for continued efforts to create inclusive work environments that accommodate the evolving needs of women in their professional journeys.


How can we encourage more women to pursue senior leadership roles in their career?

Encouraging more women to pursue senior leadership roles requires a multifaceted approach focused on addressing barriers and fostering an inclusive environment. First and foremost, organisations must actively work to eliminate gender bias in recruitment, promotion, and performance evaluation processes.

Ways to support women include implementing mentorship programmes which can provide women with guidance and support as they navigate their career paths, helping them build essential skills and networks.

Creating truly flexible work policies and promoting a healthy work-life balance can also empower women to pursue leadership roles without sacrificing their personal lives and people they care for. At People 1st International we have supported companies in investing in leadership development programmes such as our own “Step-Up” programme specifically tailored for women, offering opportunities for skill enhancement and confidence-building. Additionally, raising awareness about the benefits of diverse leadership and showcasing successful women leaders as role models can inspire and motivate others to aim for senior positions. Ultimately, a commitment from both organisations and society at large is crucial to breaking down systemic barriers and fostering an environment where women feel empowered to pursue and thrive in senior leadership roles.


What is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?

The most crucial message for young women contemplating their careers is to embrace their ambitions with confidence. Finding likeminded people who can help you to recognise your worth, skills, and unique perspectives is important, and don’t let societal expectations or gender stereotypes limit your aspirations. Pursue your passions with determination, be open to continuous learning and adapting to change, and actively seek mentorship from those who inspire you. Most of all remember that setbacks are opportunities for growth, and resilience and tenacity are a key asset in achieving your goals. Make sure you are heard, contribute your voice to topics that are important to you, and strive to create a path that aligns with your values and aspirations.


Share with us a woman that inspires you most, or quote that inspires you most

I love this quote from Maya Angelou, who is a renowned poet and civil rights activist, the quote that reflects her sentiments on women’s strength and resilience is:

“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”


If you could have dinner with three inspirational women, dead or alive, who would they be and why?

I would be honoured to share a dinner table with three remarkable women who have shaped my life. First and foremost, Mrs. Peach, my first head teacher, would take a well-deserved seat. Her empowering words to my mother, embracing my assertive nature as an asset rather than a flaw, have resonated profoundly throughout my work and life journey.

The second and third esteemed guests would be my grandmothers, resilient powerful women who weathered the storms of two world wars with unwavering strength. Their resilience and resourcefulness in the face of adversity have left an enduring impact on me. These extraordinary women not only navigated disruptive times I can only imagine but also imparted invaluable skills to me. The ability to step up and care for others in need (they both had refugees stay with them through the war) life skills such as cooking, gardening, reading, art, they also nurtured in me a sense of self-sufficiency and capability.

As we gather around the table, I would love to listen again to the wisdom etched in their life stories, share the milestones of my own work and life journey, and express heartfelt thanks for the influence they’ve had on me. These three women left an imprint on my heart and soul.

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