Bethanie Dennis
Bethanie Dennis, head of digital at North.
Jane Imrie

IWD 2021: North head of digital Bethanie Dennis on "heading in the right direction" with gender equality

For International Women’s Day 2021, Bdaily reached out to a range of female business leaders from across our key regions to share how their experience of the pandemic has shaped their passion for gender equality.

Bethanie Dennis is the head of digital at newly formed digital agency North, a PR-led Newcastle firm specialising in obtaining back-links for a range of local and national brands.

Bdaily spoke with Bethanie about the importance of connection, growing during uncertainty and the need for more balance both in the home and the workplace.

As a woman, how have you personally adapted during the pandemic, and what challenges have you faced?

“I’ve adapted the same as anyone else has, there’s a need to be agile, resilient and thinking way ahead into the future, without really having any idea what it holds.

“Although we have clients in the travel and entertainment sector, we’ve been fortunate to experience a lot of growth over the last 12 months, which means making a lot of hires without actually meeting candidates.

“The challenges I’ve faced are mainly not being around my team. I have found it difficult to really understand how they are doing and how they are feeling through a screen. We have new parents in the team, and people who are supporting their unwell parents or grandparents.

“I know everyone in the agency pretty well, and in an office setting I can usually spot if something is up. Remote working means I haven’t been able to pick up on the little signals and take them for a cuppa if needed.”

How have you and your business supported women during the past year?

“We sponsored the last Women in Tech SEO conference, which was a really brilliant and inspiring event. Our team is currently more weighted towards females, and we were able to send them down to enjoy the conference.

“We also had the pleasure of having confidence coach Kirsty Hulse join us in September for a few days training.

“It was a request from the women in the company for this type of training, though we opened it up to the whole company. She was an absolute joy.

“Also in September, I ran an online event called UNCANNED that featured a very diverse and female-heavy set of speakers.

“We raised thousands of pounds for the charity UpRising, which again supports a heavily diverse demographic to level the playing field for the route to leadership roles.”

What opportunities do you feel that the pandemic has created for women, if any?

“Woefully, it’s commonly known that women still take the lion’s share of childcare and domestic duties within families.

“Whilst these figures are going in the right direction in the last few years, we are unfortunately still not there yet.

“I do believe that the increase in remote and flexible roles following the pandemic creates more opportunity for these women, and all women.

“It allows them to consider different roles and really quite dramatically broadens the options available to them, in both role type and salary opportunities.”

In your opinion, has the pandemic highlighted any gender imbalances in business?

“I would mirror my answer above in this case. There was an article in the [Financial Times] earlier this year that highlighted that mothers were more likely to go on furlough or quit altogether during the pandemic.

“The article also said that those that continue working may miss out on raised salaries and promotions if their performance is impaired by domestic duties.

“In addition to that, women with children were found to do the majority of homeschooling while schools were closed.

“I am very fortunate to work for a company with full flexibility that labels themselves ‘people first’ as opposed to office or remote-first, so I have not experienced this first hand.”

As we step into a post-pandemic business landscape, how do you think women’s roles in business may change?

“More women, especially working mothers, will be considered for leadership roles with increased flexibility in regards to working hours and working locations.

“I’d love to see domestic duties becoming more shared as they should be. To add this in line with remote leadership roles opening up more to working mothers, this will allow more women to have more insight into businesses at senior level.”

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