Cat Hudson - “Assertiveness can be hard but it’s extremely important”

Cat Hudson is a driven woman climbing to dizzying heights on the corporate ladder. After graduating from university and learning her trade in a number of roles she’s now the Chief of Staff for Consumer Healthcare R&D for GlaxoSmithKline.


Like so many others she’s had to overcome prejudices and discrimination for being a woman, but what’s more, is that Cat also flies the flag for the LGBT+ community.


In the post below, Cat opens up about her experiences in corporate London; offers advice for women starting their careers; and how she takes absolutely no nonsense when it comes to discrimination in the workplace.



Tackling discrimination

When it comes to equality I’m proactive in correcting my colleagues. I am the one banging the drum in work when we set up programme teams and projects around ensuring we have diversity. Recently a male colleague referred to “men and girls” – I feel confident and empowered to call this problematic behaviour out.


I haven’t always been comfortable doing this - it comes with practice. I’d encourage any women reading this to practice the statements:


No.

You interrupted me, I’m not done talking

That is not funny

I already know that

That will not be necessary

You are making me uncomfortable

That’s not appropriate

Assertiveness can be hard but I think it’s extremely important.


I believe in healthy conflict at work which is a huge basis of being a high-performing team. For me, healthy conflict comes from a diverse range of views and experiences. Diversity is critical to innovation; if you have the same type of person from the same background or university, with the same experiences – you will get the same outcome. Innovation is only achieved through diversity of thought. It is because of this, I really believe our organisations and leadership teams need to take a risk and hire people they wouldn’t normally to release this value. I think by having more BAME, LGBTQ+, women, disabled, neuro-diverse employees we will have more empathy, innovation and successful organisations.


“Yes she can is so important because I have heard far too many women saying “No I can’t”.”


Empowering youth

One of my mantras is “respect your juniors” (a play on the respect your elders saying), mainly because I don’t think the world can overestimate the foundations, limitations and enablers we are creating for the next generation. Whether this is climate change or AI developments – I think generating an organisation and culture which empowers young people is extremely important. I place energy in spending time helping younger people unapologetically focus on their passions through mentoring, coaching or mirroring inclusive behaviours within my organisation – this is a huge motivation for me.


Overcoming barriers within her career

The most obvious barriers I’ve faced are femininity and age. I strongly believe in being authentically me and I challenge myself to show up at the office in a way which reflects who I am. I believe this is a challenge considering the conscious and unconscious expectations that are placed upon women as to how to behave and what to wear to be deemed serious enough or successful. I enjoy make-up and my Dr. Martens and my hair in braids. People perceive this as being young and immature so responses such as asking me if I am an intern or an assistant are not uncommon. Even though these are just comments and I laugh them off, I do find this reflects how I am treated; whether it is the way people speak to me, how quick they would respond to me or their willingness to respect a project I am leading.

I am privileged to work with a lot of strong, independent female role models and they’ve all taught me a lot about aiming high. I have struggled with my mental health in the past and I’m proud I have been resilient enough to bounce back. I was also recently named in the Financial Times future LGBT+ global leaders of the year which really made me reflect on the past ten years and how far I have come professionally and personally.


“Don’t listen to people who tell you to quiet your ambition or to fit the mould. It’s OK to be trying new things, to be pushing yourself and stepping out of your comfort zone. You’re courageous and it will get you far.”


Have you been inspired by Cat’s no-nonsense approach? If you want to read more about successful women in the corporate world then make sure you check out Sue Benson's experiences working in marketing.

If you’d like to apply for similar roles then check out the #YesSheCan jobs board for more information.

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