#BalanceForBetter: Meet Rachel Martinelli, Chief Operating Officer at MyKindaFuture
Meet Rachel, our Chief Operating Officer at MyKindaFuture, and all-pretty inspirational team member - she's talking in celebration of International Women's Day 2019.
What do you feel empowers you within your role?
I am empowered by the people I work alongside. I am lucky to work with some fantastic people, an incredibly supportive boss, and fascinating colleagues who I feel I learn from every day.
What is important to you as a woman in a senior professional role?
I think it’s important to not take for granted the position I now have and to use it to advocate for women, and men, in my organisation. As Chief Operating Officer, one of my primary concerns is the people I work with and ensuring they have a voice and I can advocate for change on their behalf is important to me in my role.
Across your working life, have you ever felt disadvantaged because of your gender?
I am incredibly fortunate to say I don’t think I have. I have definitely worked in more male-dominated industries and teams where the culture was not particularly inclusive, but I have been lucky to always have had very supportive bosses who have gone out of their way to encourage my development. I am very aware though that this is not the experience of all and that far too many women are still disadvantaged in their professional life due to their gender. This is one of the reasons why I volunteer with an amazing organization called The Girl’s Network, where I get the opportunity to mentor Year 10 and 11 girls from disadvantaged schools. Not only do mentors helps them to consider career paths that they may have thought were closed to them but we also get to share our own social capital by introducing them to our networks.
Why do you feel it’s important for women to have equal power and opportunity within the workplace? What do you feel could be done better to promote a more equal playing field?
I think there is a moral obligation for equality in the workplace, alongside a commercial benefit as so many studies have now shown. More diverse voices in a boardroom result in more profitable, equitable companies. There are so many things that need to be done to improve this, from mentoring and early years interventions to more structural changes that require government and companies to work in hand-in-hand. For example, changes to how paternity leave is structured; until men are enabled to take time off to look after their children in the same way women are, I think we will continue to see females’ careers stall.
How do you try to empower other female colleagues you work alongside?
What I hope I do is give people a voice, and a platform to use it. What has always appealed to me about MyKindaFuture is being able to have an opinion and there being an opportunity to have an idea and put it into practice. I hope I create an environment where other women, and men, feel the same way I do. We have a number of brilliant women in other leadership roles and I think this is incredibly important and hope that they provide our teams with positive, visible role models. I have only ever had a female boss for about 3 months of my whole career, but the impact was enormous. The very fact that a woman could be my manager blew my mind at the time and I learned a huge amount about how I wanted to manage others from those 3 months.
What advice would you give to women wanting to excel in their desired career?
To build your network, to apply even when you don’t think you are a 100% fit (so many roles go to men as women don’t put themselves forward for roles unless they think they meet the exact criteria) and to not be put off by the first ‘no’ – keep on going. Someone always has to go first and maybe this time it is you!
What are some interesting facts about yourself?
As well as mentoring via the Girl’s Network, I volunteer at the Feminist Library once a week, where I am also a member of the Spanish Feminist Book Club and I get to practice my Spanish among like-minded people. I have a dog called Fluffy, who has developed an inexplicable fear of balloons and it took me 8 go's to pass my driving test... See question above about continued perseverance!
If you could have dinner with any woman of your choice, living or dead, who would you choose and why?
Sylvia Pankhurst – she is the often forgotten Pankhurst, compared to her mother and sister who are more regularly celebrated, but for me is the most important. Sylvia differed from her mother and sister in that she fought for the right to vote not just for middle class women but for all women and the right to vote was only one element of her struggle for rights for working class women. She was also anti-imperial and anti-colonial and fought all her life, until her death in Ethiopia, against the ravages and damages of the British empire. I would love to have a cup of tea with Sylvia to understand where she got her strength from and from whom she took inspiration herself.