International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Significant activity is witnessed worldwide as groups come together to celebrate women’s achievements or rally for women’s equality.
We spoke to our associate principal Joanne about her career so far, the challenges she has faced, who inspired her and why it is important to #ChoosetoChallenge inequality, call out bias, question stereotypes, and help forge an inclusive world.
Initially, my aspiration was to become a PE Teacher then. at the age of 14, my creative side came through and I secured a Saturday job in a local hair salon. I know it’s hard to believe now, however, I was quiet as a mouse growing up. Hairdressing changed this and as a result I am a ‘people person’ who likes to talk.
At the age of 16 I attended college to study Hairdressing whilst continuing with my Saturday job, then once qualified I worked in other salons. As I built my clientele, I made the decision to work freelance. After 10 years (and with 400+ clients) I realised I wanted more, i.e. to teach. I achieved a teaching qualification whilst running my own business and teaching as agency, which led to a full-time post at Sunderland College teaching Hairdressing & Barbering.
I then studied a BA (Hons) in Education at the University of Sunderland whilst teaching full-time, which provided the transition into a broad and diverse range of promoted posts. These include Advanced Practitioner (Tutorial), Curriculum Leader (Social Sciences, Humanities and Creative), Head of Learning & Standards, Head of A-Levels, Director of Engineering, Construction & Commercial.
The merger and addition of Northumberland College to EPNE in 2019 presented an opportunity for further promotion which I was successful in my current role as Associate Principal (Ashington, Berwick & Blyth).
I have genuinely loved every role.
If I mentioned everyone, this list would be endless. However, if I focus on those who have been a true inspiration on a professional level in my career then it would start with Raija, the Swedish hairdresser in the salon of my Saturday job. The interpersonal skills, practical skills and creative vision I developed from one day a week changed and inspired me. She was married to a professional footballer; therefore, her stories were always fun, too.
Next would be Liz, hairdressing lead at the college where I studied, who saw something in me that led to my first teaching role. Her praise, recognition and encouragement were motivational.
Emma was the Head of Learning & Standards when I was Curriculum Leader at Sunderland College. She was a mentor to me and when she moved on to pastures new, I was promoted to her post, i.e. my first middle management role. Her professionalism combined with a focus upon quality was second to none and I learned so much from her. We still keep in touch.
In a nutshell, many people inspire me as we all have something to give.
I am extremely proud to say that my career (in industry and Further Education) started in Hairdressing as I have been successful in both. I have experienced many people who stereotype those who work in this (and other) service sectors which is disappointing.
Do I challenge this? Yes, every time. Hairdressing as a career provides a sense of achievement and you can be as successful as you make it.
It’s constantly changing, it’s rewarding, it’s forward-thinking. No two days are the same, in fact no two hours of any day are the same, which is an adrenaline rush. Those who know me well, know that I’m 100 miles an hour; I’m energetic, enthusiastic and always focused on demonstrating a positive impact, therefore, what better profession than Further Education.
If you had asked this question 10 years ago, I may have answered differently, however, my answer today would be that we now live in a more balanced and fair society within Further Education, therefore my answer is “no, I don’t”.
There are many female senior leaders and managers across the sector, which is excellent, inspiring and how it should be which brings a smile to my face – go girls!
It’s simple – it’s the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong. I have very strong values which is a credit to my parents and my upbringing. We are all individual and unique and this is something to respect. I will always challenge prejudice and accept nothing less than inclusion.
We all know that working in education really is a vocation – it’s not a typical 9-5 job. To support work life balance (continuing the theme of 100 miles an hour), I enjoy exercise; walking, jogging, cycling and fresh air as it clears my head and provides time for reflection and forward planning.
I have so many amazing friends and we love nothing better than socialising (in couples or girlie afternoons and evenings); drinks, eating out, weekend overnight stays.
When we do meet up, we talk, we laugh, we dance. I honestly can’t wait until we can do this again post-lockdown.
Not initially, however, when the first promotion opportunity arose within the college, that was it – I was hooked. When I look back, I’ve been fortunate and moved up the career ladder every few years. My motivation is driving improvement for impact, and although I’m very impatient and want to demonstrate this quickly, realistically it usually takes two to three years. I often pinch myself as I can’t believe I’m now at senior leadership level – I feel so thankful for this opportunity.
I’m known for setting high expectations to support a culture of responsibility and ownership to drive improvement (as we all have a role to play both individually and working in collaboration). I provide structure, I communicate, and I motivate people. I share the vision and goals with staff and provide progress updates. Communication will only work if it’s two-way, therefore, I’m very approachable, I listen and respond in a timely manner to staff, who are our best resource.
We are the largest further education provider in Northumberland with campuses throughout the county.
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