Who are you?

My name is Sinead Sharkey-Steenson and I’m the founder of Generation Women.  I’m really excited to say that Generation Women is 2 this month and I feel so proud that our business which is supportive to women is thriving 2 years on.  The potential for the future keeps growing and growing!

What do you do?

There’s an interesting question!  What don’t I do?!  I’m primarily a career strategist for women – which means I help women work out what they want and how to go about making it happen.  I use a mixture of coaching and training resources to help them get results.  Generation Women do this for women who want to return to work after a career break, women who are frustrated because they know they could be much further ahead, and executives who want to take their performance EVEN HIGHER.

Additionally,I also work with businesses to support women’s advancement through supporting women’s networks, developing inclusive leadership programmes, and building processes and programmes to support people who want to return to work after a career break.

When I’m not doing these things I create content for my programmes, and for social media.  Plus all the business activities that don’t get seen like networking, business development, learning, and I run a Lean In network for female entrepreneurs too!

What do you think you can bring to a business focused on addressing the gender gap in the workplace?

I’ve spent over 20 year’s working in business and cultural transformation, and helping develop leaders.  My work on the gender gap is definitely an extension of that.  It’s not just about doing it because it’s right the right thing to do (which is a good enough reason), but because we approach it from how you can improve your business results and culture.  I also bring a lot of knowledge and experience from being on both sides of the gap.  Having worked for organisations that are 90%+ male, I know what it’s like to be the lone female voice and I take pride in being supportive to women in the workplace.

Recently I travelled with a colleague to the USA to meet with leaders in Women’s Advancement (an accepted term there), and attended conferences at the forefront of this area.  This has been valuable to reinforce a lot of the work I’m already doing, and also extend the knowledge of what’s working in global organisations.

Why do you care about equality?

I’ve always been someone who argued and fought for things to be fair.  My sister reminded me that when I was quite young I had a big debate at the dinner table about gay rights and how it wasn’t fair for anyone to be treated differently because of sexual orientation.  It’s funny that I was quite late to my awakening around gender.  I look back and realise there are many times I was held back or wasn’t treated the same because I was a woman.

It was only when I had daughters that it actually hit me.  It’s been like the scales falling from my eyes and I see the world differently.  There’s a lot of research out there that women are more likely to take action on behalf of others, well it seems that’s true for me.  I didn’t see it wasn’t fair when it happened to me, but the idea of my girls being held back makes me angry.  The same when I see it happening to other women.

What’s it like working with your husband?

Yeah that’s a funny one.  Whenever I tell people, they get a funny look on their faces…sometimes it’s pity, sometimes confusion, and sometimes I can see they’re trying to measure my mental health!  Well it’s been a revelation!

Firstly, it helps that we aren’t located in the same place on a daily basis!  I have an office I go to, and Dave works from home.  Secondly, it has taken time for us to find our groove.  We wouldn’t argue in the same way as your average co-workers! Lol.  But Dave works well, he’s super fast, and loves doing most of what I don’t really enjoy so it’s a match made in heaven.

It’s also really helped at home, we have total flexibility.  I can’t imagine a 10 day work trip having worked if we weren’t in this position.  Plus Dave does a lot more of the house stuff which is a joy.  I’m grateful daily that we’ve got this working, though I’m sure we’ll have to keep adjusting as we go.

What excites you about the future of the business?

I’m really excited to launch some new parts of the business.  The ability to support more women through the online programmes is going to be very cool, you get all of the training and techniques to work on at your own pace.  So watch this space for that coming very soon.

I’m excited to be collaborating more with the fabulous Lisa Strutt on our Executive Mastermind for senior women, women’s leadership programmes, work with girls in sport, and support businesses to help women who want to return to work.

And I’m adapting the successful Rise and Shine programme to work for returners too.  It has all the ingredients women need to build confidence, and strategy to return to work after a career break.  From understanding your career direction, building your network, and crafting your CV, to acing your interview.  It’s the one-stop-shop for your needs.  The first programme will be launching in November.

What are your passions in life?

Of course I love a good night out when I can, and days out as a family, and travelling.  I could paint a lovely illusion of all the things I’d love to be doing, but honestly…between the business and 2 small children, mostly I love naps and wine!

What advice would you give women wanting to get ahead?

Get clear on what you want, get strategic about building your brand and profile, and get a coach of course!

What advice would you give men wanting to be more supportive to women?

A lot of it starts at home.  If you have a partner, then treat her like one.  You share the housework, the cooking, the parenting.  You treat her career as important as yours.  Then at work, start to pay attention more.  Be aware of language that belittles, be respectful as a listener and stop interrupting, stand up for things you see that are unfair.  It’s essentially about being a decent human, but it does start with being aware.  If you look around you in the office and it’s mostly blokes, ask why is that?  When men go to the management meetings and realise that women are underrepresented, they need to ask what’s happening to stop them getting ahead?