Motivated by the desire to inspire the next generation of female leaders, Saskia is well versed in overcoming some of the major hurdles faced by women in the modern workplace. Before working in the policy sector, Saskia was a Probation Service Officer working at a Crown Court prosecuting in the courtroom and writing pre-sentence reports.
What is a typical day in your career?
A usual day consists of many meetings; with my team and wider departments to discuss progress updates and any risks/sensitivities to our work. Other tasks include conducting research on a technical area that we need more information on and putting together reports for a minister who has demanded a last-minute briefing ahead of an important meeting.
What made you choose this career/industry?
This opportunity came about when I was searching for a new job last year. I felt I had outgrown my first public sector job and needed a new challenge. My current job was not what I had applied for but I impressed the interviewers and they recommended me for the role! It just goes to show that no opportunity is a waste of time! Nonetheless, I am thoroughly enjoying my time here! The policy sector is such a complex arena and like any other public service area, there is a certain art and etiquette to follow which I am quickly learning.
Have you ever felt that your gender has brought unnecessary challenges to your career?
Yes, without a doubt. In a previous role, where I was required to attend Court in a professional capacity, to prosecute a breach hearing. A more senior female colleague of mine was observing me as this was my first hearing. Upon greeting the Counsel he looked at both of us and asked where our male colleague was to see if could he speak to him. I advised that I was the prosecuting officer in the case and that he can direct any questions towards me as I was familiar with the case. He said, “Oh I assumed you were just a student observing and that your colleague was a teacher”.
In another instance at court, a man in the public gallery continued to shout, “Hello pretty” towards me. I had no connection to this man and the Magistrates and Legal Clerk did not acknowledge him throughout the hearing. I looked towards my male colleague who was sat next to me and he was chuckling. After the hearing, I told him that this made me feel uncomfortable and he said, “You must be used to it, just ignore it”.
Now those examples haven’t made me doubt my path but they are significant events that I will always remember.
What three tips would you give to young females starting their careers?
Seize every opportunity that presents itself: Whether they are planned or completely out of the blue, you should take the chance to experience something new. You never know what will come of it!
Don’t have a rigid plan: You may have your life figured out and good for you! But I’ve learned that plans never stay the same and sometimes you have to go with the flow.
Work hard: Quite simply, you must work hard for what you want. Accept the challenges and put all your effort into achieving that goal.
Do you think enough is being done by businesses to address gender imbalance?
No. I think to answer this question any other way would be incorrect. Women are still outnumbered. In my first week at my current job, the first thing I told my friends was “I’m surrounded by middle-aged white men in suits”. The ratio has since improved and those men I am surrounded with are very supportive. Yet gender issues still stand.
Common examples can be seen in male colleagues attempting to handle female health issues when they haven't been given the appropriate training to be able to do so, and therefore businesses need to do more to tackle the everyday issues around gender and not just the gender imbalance.
What would you say to your 16-year-old self?
I’d tell her to forget about self-image pressure and the competitiveness between girls. Self-image is fluid and at 16 years old it should not be a worry. Girls know how hard school can be with the pressures boys put on them never mind the rivalry between cliques. Girls should support each other and not tear one another down.
Enjoy reading Saskia's Q&A? What a real insight into the challenges females face on a day to day basis in the legal sector. You might be interested in reading our interview with licensed attorney and professional engineer, Barbara Res!