International Women’s Day 2021: Choose to challenge

‘A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day.

We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.

From challenge comes change, so let’s all choose to challenge.’

March 8, 2021

At Old Mill our values and behaviours play a fundamental part of our culture, who we are and what we stand for. So much so, we celebrate these at our annual people awards which we hold in December. It’s so important for us to bring our values to life by showcasing these individuals.

Last year’s winners were a combination of brilliant talent who were nominated by their colleagues and interestingly all our value and behaviour awards fell to women.

Here we speak to our winners about their careers and what International Women’s Day and ‘choose to challenge’ means to them…

Judith Baker heads up our Digital Business Services team and won ‘Outstanding Contribution’

Lucy Bennett, adviser and auditor in our owner managed businesses team won ‘Passionate’

Emma Collins, Client Manager in our Wealth Management team won ‘Lovely to work with’

Sian Bainbridge, Operations Team Manger in our Rural team won ‘Open-minded’.

What challenges have you faced in your career? How did you overcome them?

Judith: I’ve been really lucky in that I’ve never had to struggle that much in a work environment but that may have been because I had such supportive role models in pretty challenging and male dominated environments such as British Aerospace and in the telecoms and defence industries. In those roles it was very much about demonstrating what you can do, what you could contribute, being passionate and enthusiastic for change whilst remaining commercially aware, all attributes which I hope I’ve brought into my role here at Old Mill.

Joining Old Mill was completely different as approximately two thirds of our workforce are women, however, you do still need to understand different perspectives and to really care about your team to build that loyalty.

Lucy: I’ve been really lucky in my career at Old Mill and not had to challenge any negative behaviour, it has always seemed like a really fair environment. I’m surrounded by women but also forward-thinking men who just treat everyone equally, there’s no bias. It was a little different when working in a local village pub where I used to be a waitress and work behind the bar, but even then I challenged those comments and wouldn’t stand for that type of behaviour. In some professions there is still a way to go.

Emma: Working in the motor trade prior to joining Old Mill as a PA/Office Manager you could see that there were definitely old-fashioned morals amongst some of the trade reps. It was interesting to hear how they spoke so differently to men and women within the same office. I think challenging that behaviour is easier to do now, there are more women in senior positions and society has really helped us to move forward. I love reading and hearing from strong women on social media and in the press, it’s really important for women of all ages to have those role models.

At Old Mill it’s completely different to life in the motor trade, we are such a mix of age and gender and there is just a common theme of working together, it’s really refreshing.

Sian: When I was an auditor, it was sometimes apparent that clients would approach my male colleagues first when we were out on site. It does make you question yourself, but after gaining more experience I have grown in confidence and assertiveness. I am proud to work for a firm where women are such an integral and essential part of the firm’s success and are valued and supported just as much as their male colleagues.


Which mentors or role models have positively impacted you in your career?

Judith: My positive role model was Head of Strategy and Planning at British Aerospace, he really taught me to think, evaluate options and consider other perspectives. He had really clear boundaries and you knew what was expected. A good mentor will invest their time into you, but you very much get back what you put in, respect is hard earned and easily lost. I always think that you should never ask someone to walk into a difficult situation if you aren’t prepared to do it yourself.

Lucy: I have a real mix of people from my time at Old Mill and have taken characteristics from them all. The stand out few would be Amanda Bradley who helped me when I was originally applying for a role Old Mill and has always supported me, but also the likes of David Jones who is so level headed and who I work closely with every day. Phil Mills who heads up our Food & Drink sector also gave me some brilliant advice when I was uncertain about the direction that I wanted to take in my career. He said just pick something and go for it but put 100% into it. I’m really thankful to work alongside other passionate people and for their support and advice over the years.

Emma: Charlotte Corr and Becca Rowe are real role models at Old Mill and I work alongside both in the Wealth Management team. They’re aspirational, good at their jobs and just genuinely kind, supportive people. I also have a friend who is a complete super woman! She manages her work and home life brilliantly and I’ve always really admired her resilience but that it comes with such kindness.

Sian: There are so many people who have supported me since I joined Old Mill, especially Andrew Moore and Valerie Fell who took me under their wings. When I took the job at Old Mill I relocated from Winchester to Wells so didn’t really know anyone apart from my now husband, Jack. They were so thoughtful and caring and it made such a difference to that difficult transitional time. They have been a real guiding force in my life and career.

The other big role model in my life is my mum. She’s truly inspirational and obtained her degree in Health and Social Care as a mature student from the Open University and went on to obtain a Masters in Business Administration. She has such great resilience and tenacity which I really admire.

What did winning the award mean to you?

Judith: It came at the right time it was a real boost and I’m so immensely proud of the team as it’s definitely the result of all their effort. Towards the end of 2020 I had begun to experience severe self-doubt after experiencing a period of highs and lows due to a fast pace of change and high expectation. Winning the award and being recognised for doing a good job has really helped be that positive reinforcement I needed at that time.

Lucy: I really wasn’t expecting it to be me, so was slightly taken back! My family were there watching it too and shared the excitement which was really lovely! I also received loads of lovely messages and calls from my colleagues. I am really passionate about what I do and my confidence has increased over the past few years, due to a supportive team, being part of the Junior Adviser programme as well as leading the Yeovil social committee which has certainly helped my visibility.

Emma: Never in a million years, did I think it would be me, I wasn’t 100% sure it was even my name that was read out until the lovely supportive messages came flooding through.  Such a lovely surprise. My career has accelerated quickly and that’s due to such a great team that are willing to spend time with me to help me develop. They’re all equally lovely to work with.

Sian: I was in the office listening to the awards and heard my name, I turned around to see those that were in the office clapping! It was a little embarrassing at the time but also really nice to be recognised in an official capacity. It makes it feel like everything I do is appreciated. I’ve really tried to be open-minded, saying yes to all the opportunities and challenges that come my way , which is how I went from being an auditor into an operations role. It has been such a positive move for my career and shows how my ‘open-mindedness’ has helped with my development.

And lastly, have you purchased anything with your prize?

Judith: I have put my winnings to one side and will be sharing it with the people I work most closely with once we are allowed to socialise together. It’s absolutely about the team and the achievements we have made together in a short space of time. The team formed whilst we were in lockdown so it will be really great to get together when we can and get to know one another properly.

Lucy: I am saving up for a house deposit so that will go in the savings pot!

Emma: We are in the process of decorating so mine will go towards that.

Sian:  I’m planning on a weekend break as soon as lockdown restrictions allow.

Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, enjoy those prizes when you get the opportunity, very well deserved.