We are lucky in Sunderland that so many inspirational women support the business community. On International Women's Day, we got in touch with Karen, the Centre Director for the Bridges Shopping Centre in Sunderland. The Bridges is home to over 90 retail operators and a large multi-story car park. Karen is also a Director on various boards in the City, influencing developments to create a positive experience for business leaders, employees, visitors and the local community.   

How did you get where you are today?

Before entering the property management industry, I gained experience in the private sector for some of the UK's best-known media operators and telecoms companies, including Capital Radio and Virgin Media. I obtained a strong background in marketing and public relations before I took a marketing managers role with Capital & Regional, responsible for The Mall shopping centre in Middlesbrough. I soon moved into a Centre Manager position which was the start of my property management career, spanning the last 15 years and leading to a string of industry awards.

What does International Women's Day mean to you?

I think the meaning of International Women's Day has evolved. Previous connotations were around driving gender equality; however, in a world of equal opportunity, I believe the focus should be on mentoring and supporting others to achieve their ambitions.

Have you faced any barriers or obstacles within your career?

I have been fortunate to work alongside some great individuals over the last 15 years who have encouraged and guided me on my chosen path. I've had three children and returned to work after each one without any adverse effect on my career progression. I've always worked for organisations that have offered me opportunities, support, training and, most importantly, agile conditions. As a working mum, you frequently have one foot on the deck on and on the dock. Working from home to facilitate a school pick up or a break from the traditional parameters of 9 'til 5 is key. In return, I'll work whatever days and hours are necessary to deliver my job without dropping a beat.

Are there any aspects of gender inequality that you feel should be challenged?

When the education system and most responsible employers offer equal opportunities to males and females, I believe any outdated opinions on gender equality stem from the family setting. As parents, we have a responsibility to model opportunities available to our children equally. I would like to challenge the family setting to empower children equally and instil ambition in our youngsters from birth.   

How should we choose to negate the stereotypes of feminism in the workplace?

I think most women would choose not to bring feminism to the workplace and indeed go some way to mitigate comments by beginning "I'm not a feminist but..". However, if an issue needs addressing, most companies have a structure to allow staff, regardless of gender, to bring that to the fore. 

If you could pass on one piece of valuable advice, what would you say?

I would encourage all individuals, regardless of gender, to follow their dreams. Society is geared around shared opportunities for people to access training and support to achieve their potential. If you believe in yourself, others will believe in you too! 


This blog post is written from Karen's perspective and therefore contains her own views and opinions. 

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