In this blog, #YesSheCan speak to Justine Baynes, Director of Marketing at British Triathlon Federation. She talks about her career, coming back to work after raising her daughters and shares her passion about women supporting women!
I started my working life in a market research firm, where I used primary and secondary research to advise companies about new and existing markets. I then moved into the exciting world of advertising, where I stayed for the first part of my career, until I went on maternity leave. I loved this part of my career – it was a time when the advertising world was really creative! People made big-budget, bold campaigns and it was right at the start of the digital revolution so we got to experiment with this new innovation of email marketing! It was a very different world to the one that we currently operate in, even before the current crisis hit. Marketing was seen as a creative and exciting part of business and one that companies saw the value in investing in.
A typical day at work
There isn’t a day that is typical! Right now, we are in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, so I spend a lot of time on that, but there are also a huge range of other projects that I am balancing at any one time.
That’s one of the things I love about working in this role – I can never get bored.
Choices and Challenges
I wanted to be a journalist when I left school so I did a media degree. During my degree, I did a placement on a local newspaper and realised that I would have to spend years working on local papers earning very little money and didn’t fancy that! I had always enjoyed the marketing side of my degree, so I moved into that world and have never looked back.
The biggest challenge I faced was coming back to work after a 10 year break. I never thought I would want to have children, and certainly not give up work completely when I did, but that’s exactly what happened. When I had my first daughter, my husband and I decided together that I would stay at home to look after her which was the easiest decision I’ve ever made. I didn’t even really think about it; I just wanted to be a full-time mum. I went on to have two more daughters so spent 10 years as a full-time mum, which I am incredibly lucky to have been able to do. Then in 2012, all three were at school and I was becoming pretty horrible to live with, so I applied for a job one night and started work again. I went back part time, in a much lower level role that I had left my career at, but it suited me to get back to work. It didn’t take me long to get promoted and things just got better from there.
I felt that as a part time working mum, I had to do more then anyone else that I was working with so that people didn’t think I couldn’t do it.
My biggest issue was that I felt that I had to work doubly hard and sacrifice my family life to prove myself. About 3 years after I had gone back to work, I went on an all-women three day conference, where I was surrounded by strong, inspirational women who had achieved all sorts of incredible things and I learned a lot about who I really was. Thanks to them, I was able to recognise the negativity that I was experiencing and find ways to deal with it.
I then went to work for an organisation which was completely wrong for me – the way that the organisation was run and the behaviour of the CEO was completely against all of my personal values and I really struggled there. I only lasted 9 months, before getting a job in London for an amazing military charity. It’s this role that I really flourished in – I had the freedom and support to drive huge change and to feel like I made a difference. I moved jobs to BTF just over a year ago because I wanted to have more time to spend with my family – I adored my job but working in London took me away from them too much and I would hate to look back and regret that I had missed my daughters’ growing up.
The biggest challenge has always been being a woman. It’s part of our daily life but that doesn’t mean we have to just put up with it.
No matter how good you are or how supportive your boss or colleagues are, there are always barriers to being a woman in the business world. I am really lucky in this job and my last one to have had really supportive bosses, but that doesn’t mean I have not faced sexism in many forms from others. We live in a patriarchal society where women have to fight harder. That won’t change until we have more women leading the world. It’s not enough to have a female prime minister, we need more women on the boards of the top companies in the world and as world leaders.
As I have got older and more confident, I am less and less apologetic about being a feminist. I am never going to apologise for supporting other women and women’s rights throughout my life.
I have learned not to worry about whether people like me and to be comfortable with being judged on my results. That doesn’t mean I ride roughshod over people’s feelings – quite the opposite! I have been lucky to work with some exceptional coaches who have helped me to become self-aware and aware of the impact that I have on others. This is something that has been really useful as I navigate my way around sometimes hostile environments!
Drive and inspiration
I think that as a leader you have been be accessible to people. I spend a lot of time talking to my teams about their work and issues, probably more than I spend at my desk! I also believe in being honest and authentic – my team know that I am as passionate about our work as anyone and that I do what I say I will.
There’s no chance you will be passionate and successful if you don’t actually like what you do, or don’t believe in your work.
I think a combination of my family’s work ethic, my own determination and drive and a genuine passion for work keep me going. I really love my job and I think that’s important if you want to be successful. I don’t know if it’s anything to do with being female, but I laugh a LOT with my team! We have some random, often bizarre conversation during the working day and I love that.
Having three amazing daughters and a husband who is awesome and who I have so far managed to be married to for over 20 years! I can’t stress how important it is to have a support network and those four are absolutely mine.
Lessons for life
I’ve learned two massive lessons – one is that you don’t have to be best friends with everyone you work with. It’s ok if you don’t get on with someone, so long as you are courteous and polite.
The second is that good enough is ok. I learned this a couple of years ago – I have always believed that you have to be perfect at everything, if it’s not perfect then it’s not good enough and I’ve learned from some very wise people that actually, good enough is ok!
One mantra I live my life by is don’t regret what you did – most of us make decisions based on what we think is right at the time. There’s no point looking back and wishing you had done it differently; just take what you have learned and use it in the future. Another important mantra is one my mum used to say to us when we were younger – if you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all! I think more people should use this on social media…!
A key leadership lesson I’ve learnt is that leadership has to be authentic. I have to believe in what I am saying and if I don’t, I won’t be able to succeed. That’s why values are so important; I need to believe in my organisation and the way it works.
Life outside work
With three teenage daughters, any spare time I have is spent enjoying gin and fine wines! I do go to the gym which I hate as I am intrinsically lazy. The truth is that with three active daughters who do things like three-day eventing, musical theatre, rugby, netball (any sport going!) and very active social lives, any time my husband and I get, we spend it together! I wish I was one of those superwomen who carve out time for themselves and manage to balance it all, but I am nowhere near that!
My mum. She has been a massive influence on me. She gave up work when she was 21 when she was pregnant with my elder sister and never went back. Thanks to her, I grew up with a safe, secure world where my friends were always welcome and she was always there when I needed her. Now, we are incredibly close and I value her advice and support more than she will ever know.
I love what I do. I love working. I love my team and am lucky to work in a fun environment. It’s really simple for me!
There is absolutely not enough being done to address this imbalance in business. Whilst most big businesses are run by men, it will never change. Men might be sympathetic and even empathetic to women in the workplace but they will never know what it feels to be judged because of what you are wearing or how you look, or talked down to by a man who uses his size and gender to dominate you simply because you are a woman. I don’t know what the answer is, but I do think that we have to work harder as business leaders to create a world in which women, particularly young women, can succeed.
I also want more companies to actively support working mums. I am lucky that my boss and my previous boss have both been huge advocates of supporting working parents, but many women aren’t so lucky. At one stage I felt I had to pretty much pretend that my children didn’t affect my work life, but now I recognise that they are part of who I am and I am not going to sacrifice them for work.
If I could give three tips to young females starting in their careers, I would say:
1) Find someone to be your mentor – I have been lucky to have some amazing inspirational women mentor me over the years and I can’t say how important it is.
2) Pick your battles – there is a time for feisty feminism and there is a time to be more subtle about it.
3) Be honest with yourself – don’t try and be something you’re not; you will fail. It’s ok to admit you’re struggling or that you’re unhappy.
I have been given many great pieces of advice in my life – I think the one I have always stuck by is that nothing that I do in my work is life or death. If things go wrong, it is not the end of the world and things can always be fixed.
When you’re looking at a role, women will look at the bits they can’t do and think it’s not worth applying. Men will look at the things they can do, and go for it. So as women, we need to believe in ourselves more and trust our instincts. That will only happen if we support one another, so have a good network of strong women around you who will cheer you on! I have got some amazing friends who have been my best cheerleaders along the way.
Also I would say you don’t need to sacrifice yourself for your work. Find the balance that works for you and don’t bend your rules to make others happy. It’s ok to stick by your guns and you will often find people respect you more for it.
If women want to achieve more prominent roles in their organisations, my advice would be to support each another. I have seen women throw their female colleagues under a bus to try and score points and that’s just wrong. I actively support and promote my female colleagues – my male ones as well – but I support the specific needs of my female colleagues.
What would you say to your 16-year-old self?
Your hair won’t always be rubbish!!
Take a chance; you never know what will happen! Don’t not try things because you are scared, always just have a go and learn from it – after all, FAIL stands for ‘For All I’ve Learned’!