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.
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:
You interrupted me, I’m not done talking
That will not be necessary
You are making me uncomfortable
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.
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.
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.