IWD – Hannah Abbas-Lodge, Customer Services Manager

International Women's Day Interview

Hannah Abbas-Lodge, Customer Services Manager

1. Why do you think it is important to celebrate International Women’s Day?

We should first and foremost use this as an opportunity to address the real-world problems that exist within our own organisations. What is our pay gap? Should we be paying our women more? Have we achieved everything we set out to do this time last year? Are we meeting the day-to-day needs of the women across the business and providing them with the support and guidance we offer to all other colleagues?

I also think it’s important to shed a light on women working together and being supported to drive innovation in whichever sector they work in, but most importantly for me, in STEM subjects – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Creating role models and mentors in career paths which have been classically led by men is vitally important to ensuring that women have access to these industries, and can thrive.

Celebrating International Women’s Day not only provides us with an opportunity to shout about great women past and present but also to talk about how women can support others to overcome barriers and accomplish their goals.

International Women's Day - Hannah Abbas-Lodge

2. Have you faced any barriers in your career due to being a woman? If so, how did you overcome them?

The real barrier I have faced is finding the right women to learn from at different times in my career and making sure I have the right support and mentorship in place to push me to achieve my goals.

To overcome this, I joined a networking group called the District Heating Divas. They aim to bring women from all lines of work within the Heat Network Industry together to encourage discussion about diversity and inclusion and about progress within our industry and best practice.

They also offer a mentoring program which is designed to pair up mentees with an appropriate mentor depending on what they want to work on, be that engineering, project management, customer service procedure, or even legal framework.

It was an excellent experience and probably the thing I miss most about working in the heat network sector. Luckily, I was able to form some excellent connections with some of the amazing women I was fortunate enough to meet, and we still speak on a regular basis – helping to guide each other to achieve excellence in the best way we can.

3. What is the most important piece of advice you have been given?

Forgive yourself more often. Missteps are a learning opportunity, rest is a requirement, and consistent incremental progress is just as important as reaching those big milestones.

4. How can we encourage more women to pursue entrepreneurship or senior leadership roles in their career?

Ensure they have the right support and guidance in place to give them the confidence that they have no barriers and can get to where they want to. Women need excellent role models in leadership and management roles to show that it’s not an unachievable goal. If we see a barrier to progression, we should work to remove it.

5. What is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?

You have so many options open to you. Don’t be afraid to seek guidance – asking questions and learning is the key to continuous improvement.

6. Is there anyone that inspires you in your career?

I’ve had the good fortune to meet many inspirational women through the Divas organisation. Two who particularly stand out are Linda Forbes and Faye Tomson.

I was in a catch-up/coffee morning meeting with a few of the networking group members and Linda spoke at length about not being afraid to make a change when you’re already far down the path of your current career if that’s what you’d really like to do. Linda re-studied in engineering later in life and was a brilliant STEM ambassador to my generation. She spoke with such passion, and she has had such a profound impact on how I view my career and what options are open to me. She’s a big part of why I have this job now.

Faye presented at one of the annual DHD meet-ups and spoke about her company – District Eating. I’d encourage you to go and find out more about District Eating and how they tackle carbon emissions and food poverty in one delicious fell swoop. You will soon understand why Faye is somewhat of a genius and an inspiration.

7. Why do you think diversity in the workplace is so important?

Diversity is the cure for inequality. As a woman speaking on IWD, I think it’s more important for senior leadership teams to think about and answer this question, and to put sustainable practices in place which ensure diversity in the workplace.

8. If you could have dinner with three inspirational women, dead or alive, who would they be and why?

My maternal grandmother – I didn’t get to ask her everything I should have!

Linda Forbes – I only ever got to speak to her very briefly and never 1-1 and again have so many questions I would have loved to ask.

Diana Wynne Jones – She is a favourite author of mine and it would be interesting to speak to her about her inspiration and her journey as an author.

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