International Women’s Day is the worldwide event that is held on the 8 March to celebrate women’s social and political achievements, whilst pushing for gender equality across the globe. First observed in the early 1900s, it is now celebrated by organisations, corporations and charities through events, performances and marches in over 100 countries.
Gibsons, the independent jigsaw puzzle and board games company was also established in the early 20 century, in 1919. In late 2016, Gibsons appointed its first female MD and sales director, Kate Gibson and Nicki Gumbrell, both of whom are the great-granddaughters of the company’s founder. This is a considerable achievement in an industry that is still predominately run by men, with over 75 per cent of worldwide toy designers being male (Mojo Nation, 2018).
The Toy Industry is not alone in this statistic, as the gender gap persists worldwide – especially in business and politics. According to a 2017 report by the World Economic Forum, it could still take another 100 years before the global equality gap between men and women disappears entirely (World Economic Forum, 2016). On International Women’s Day, all females are urged to band together to emphasise these inequalities – whist also celebrating the achievements of women who have overcome these barriers both professionally and personally (The Telegraph, 2018).
In an interview with Gibsons’ MD to commemorate International Women’s Day, Gibson expressed her opinions are on these social and political difficulties.
According to the World Economic Forum, the gender gap (which includes income differences, business representation and education) won't close until 2186. Do you feel that this is an issue at Gibsons?
TDiversity within a team, but most specifically within a Leadership team, brings different skills and approaches which add immense value, and we celebrate those differences at Gibsons. Employees are also supported and encouraged to continue their education or training and personal development.
You’re the first female MD that Gibsons has ever had, how does this feel? Do you ever feel daunted by the task?
I am extremely proud that the fourth generation of Gibsons has a female MD and sales director, a long way from the days of our autocratic founder! ‘Bringing people together’ underpins everything we do at Gibsons. I am grateful for the opportunity to effect change, to improve our culture and make Gibsons a great place to work for all of our employees. This includes enhanced maternity leave and flexible working. Supporting those who return to work after having a baby, as well as offering flexible working hours around childcare can really make a difference to how a person feels about their job. This, in turn, is reflected in their performance and helps companies to retain talent. Since becoming MD, I have renewed the focus on our corporate social responsibility, including supporting a local children’s charity and offering work experience to vulnerable young people who are really in need of someone believing in them.
What was it like as a young professional in the 2000s when you first started work?
My first permanent job was in publishing in the year 2000, but I soon moved into marketing in the charity sector which was already quite progressive, offering good benefits for female employees such as enhanced maternity leave. My confidence has grown significantly over the years, so I would encourage all women starting their careers to focus on their strengths and believe in the best version of themselves.
What’s it like being a mother to two young girls?
I try hard to avoid any gender stereotyping in front on my children. Issues such as physical appearance are never discussed in our house and they are encouraged to have a range of interests. My eldest daughter was proud to be one of the only girls at school taking basketball last year. Having said that they both went through the ‘pink’ phase and love to paint their nails!
When I became Managing Director of Gibsons I vowed that I wouldn’t miss a parents evening or nativity, you can’t get those precious years back. I try hard to role model a great attitude to work, but instil the importance of seeking a balance in life, looking after your health and prioritising your loved ones.
My biggest wish is that they believe in themselves and their abilities (whatever their choices in life) and understand that hard work and effort pays off. This should help them deal with the inevitable challenges of being a young woman in todays world.