Recently TechPixie founder, Joy Foster was invited to the Kat Orman show on BBC Radio Oxford to discuss the work TechPixies is doing to help women gain the confidence they need in order to return to work, change careers or start a new business. They discussed everything from the #MeToo movement to women’s equality. You can listen here, but here’s a summary of the key points:
Kat and Joy discuss the latest 100 Faces of the Vibrant Economy Announcement by Grant Thornton
Kat: Talking of inspirational, with growth comes recognition. Joy Foster is a founder of TechPixies, a female-run company that has helped one hundred and nineteen women upskill in social media with many of them now returning to work, changing careers or even starting a business. She is changing lives, actually. She has just been unveiled as one of the 100 Faces of the Vibrant Economy 2018 by Grant Thornton and she is here. It’s good to see you, congratulations Joy. This recognition is remarkable, I mean you being recognized as one of the one hundred faces of a vibrant economy 2018. This is hotly contested as well.
Joy: We had the unveiling ceremony last week with Sacha Romanovitch, the outgoing CEO of Grant Thornton, for whom I have the utmost respect. I was looking around at all the pictures on the wall and I couldn’t believe that I was in the same category. I felt like I was starting to become the person I always thought I could be but also that the company is becoming the company I have always thought it could be. It’s amazing that we have support from places like Grant Thornton, who believe what we are doing.
Kat and Joy tackle the topic of inspirational female CEOs
Kat: We talk so much about there not being enough women in elevated positions in companies. We do need role models so young girls and women know what they can aspire to.
Joy: We are living in the absolute best time period right now for women. Dame Helena Morrissey wrote a great book called ‘It’s a good time to be a girl’. Initially, I was quite offended by the word ‘girl’ and I actually tweeted to her that I didn’t really like the use of the word girl. That said, it is true! rRght now girls are in a fantastic position because they’ve got women who are two or three or four generations ahead of them saying, “We’ve paved the way, now you need to thrive with what we have done for you.”
I’m also reading Mary Portas’ book at the moment, ‘Work Like a Woman’ which is brilliant. It talks a lot about what it was like in the eighties and nineties being in the business world. I was a student so I didn’t have to go through some of the things that they have had to go through.
Kat and Joy talk about the #MeToo movement
Joy: I had my own #MeToo moment; it wasn’t sexual harassment, but it was #MeToo in a sense. Eighteen years ago, I was not invited to a Christmas company dinner because the boss thought I would be a distraction to the married men.
Kat: You just kept silent?
Joy: No, I didn’t. I said, “Did you just say that to me?” And he said, “Yeah, sit down and let’s talk.” I said “No, I can’t sit down and talk about this” and I literally marched into the HR’s office and I told them what the boss just said to me. I said I thought it was completely wrong. About two weeks later there was a round of redundancies and I was the first one made redundant. Knowing what I know now, I think I would have taken it a bit more seriously and filed legal action, but I really didn’t want to get blacklisted.
But I think 20 years ago, that’s what you did. Now, it’s different. I have to say that the #MeToo movement has changed everything because people can say when something is wrong. That is what I love about social media. There are lots of negatives about social media but one of the reasons we teach social media is the positive side of it. You can have such a huge positive impact. You just have to look to the #MeToo movement to see that putting something out there on social can highlight it.
As you know, I’m American and in the last election, we had 100 women voted in the congress. One of them was a school friend of my sister and she is now a congresswoman. That to me is the game-changer. If we didn’t have the #MeToo movement, if we didn’t have the big marches; if we didn’t have these wonderful stories of women who are making and happen, we wouldn’t have seen things change.
Kat and Joy discuss role models she was exposed to as a child
Kat: You did grow up with the strong male role models, not necessarily female role models.
Joy: I did have strong female role models but, I think from an outsider’s point of view, I had a Godfather [Jack Kemp] who ran for the Vice President of United States and another very good family friend [Bill McCartney], who ran the Promise Keepers movement in America which touched millions of lives. Both were men. Every day, as I was walking out the door, my father used to say, “Be a leader!” and he used to tell me on regular basis I could be anything I wanted to be. I think from an outsider’s viewpoint you would look at the male role models in my life as having accomplished what they were going for in life – even my husband is an Olympic gold medalist.
Kat and Joy talk about archery and the impact of losing her Dad in her early 20s
Kat: You were never told that you can’t do anything because you are a woman?
Joy: No, and in a way, I probably carried a sense of entitlement. The family that I grew up in believed in achieving your goals and dreams and the school I went to did the same thing. So, I probably walked into my first few jobs and my first few things outside of university thinking “I can do this”.
I even walked into an archery shop in the middle of Massachusetts and I said to the guy who ran the shop that I wanted to go to the Olympics in archery… and he didn’t laugh at me! He gave me the bow and said “Ok, let’s get started!”, and so began a journey of five years trying to make the Olympic team from 2003 to 2008. I have to say I have probably always been the type of person that just goes for things, but I’ve been in an environment where it was encouraged.
I was 21 when my Dad died. That’s really when I said I am going to go after my dreams because suddenly I felt like life is too short. I remember calling my mom on my way to the archery national championships and I said “Mom, if I get 25th in the country, I am going to quit my job and I am going to train for the Olympics.” She didn’t say no. She just said, “Okay, If that’s what you want to do, go for it.” I called her two days later and I was exactly 25th and I said, “I am going for it and I very vividly remember her saying, “That’s amazing.” She supported me the whole way. I had to create my own crowdfunding campaign before crowdfunding existed, I had to create my website before people individually created personal websites, and I updated my website on a regular basis like you are on Twitter now. Back then Twitter didn’t exist, Facebook didn’t exist, none of these existed back in 2003.
Kat and Joy discuss a 50/50 split in the workplace
Kat: A hundred and fifty women you have helped through TechPixies and I think there is much more recognition that having a 50/50 split in men and women in the workplace creates a far more productive workplace.
Joy: It is 50/50 in the world. Why aren’t we 50-50 in the workplace?
Kat: I mean we are striving for quality, but we aren’t there yet.
Joy: We aren’t there yet, but a lot of great things are happening right now. I do think if you have 50/50 in the workplace as well as in the rest of life then it kind of works out.
Kat: If we get back to sport, perhaps in the workplace it is getting equality quicker than things like sport?
Joy: When I was here a couple of years ago we are talking about the Title 9, a lot of people have opinions about the Title 9 in America, which means the sport teams must have an equal number of women to men at the University level. It was fantastic for the rowing programs because in America suddenly they could fill out boats full of women and match the American Football quota. A lot of people think you shouldn’t do that, you shouldn’t put regulation on 50/50 but the 50/50 split wasn’t happening naturally. Actually, sometimes you have to enforce regulation in order to give people the opportunity. When you see the American women’s eight winning gold after gold after gold, you know that is because of pipeline of money has been funding women at the university level. So, you do have to force it when it’s not happening.
Kat and Joy discuss issues of self-confidence facing women taking career breaks to look after children
Kat: Women come to you because they want to learn new skills, maybe the children have grown up and they have left home and then suddenly women are searching to find who they are in fact maybe they even don’t know who they were in the first place.
Joy: More likely they forgot. I love Lisa Unwin’s book, ‘She’s Back’. Lisa talks about the fact that you don’t throw away all of those skills and talent that you had from before kids out with the nappies. They are still there you just have to rediscover them. Some women have never taken the steps to discover what they really truly love and every woman should do that. Actually, every man should do that. Everyone should take the time to say, what I want out of this life? How can I get it? What is my legacy? Wo many people go through the grind day to day and don’t do that exercise. That’s a big part of our programme. It’s really forcing you to think, where am I now? Where do I really want to be? What are the steps I am going to take to get there?
Kat and Joy talk about how women feel about tech and how a small shift in mindset makes all the difference
Kat: You must see women that completely change, literally become a totally different person than the one who walks through your door.
Joy: I like to say they are a better version of the first person who walked through the door. A lot of women will come to me and say, “I am so rubbish at tech” and I always say to them don’t say that. You need to reframe that. You need to say, “I am not a as good at this as I would like to be but I am gonna learn it and I am going to be better at it.”
It is so much about the way that you view things and how you see things. If you think you are rubbish at it, you will be. This is what I say to my kids who are 7 and 8. Over and over again, I when they say “I am rubbish at this.” I say, “No, you aren’t rubbish at it, you are not good at it yet. You need to rephrase that.” I make them rephrase all the time and they have learned that they do not say I am rubbish at things. They say, “I really want to learn how to play the flute better” or “I really wanna learn how to play football better”.
Kat and Joy discuss trying new things
Kat: You don’t know until you try…
Joy: No matter the outcome there is a boost of confidence that comes with trying something you have never done before. If you always do the same thing over and over again and never change yourself and never put yourself out there and never put yourself in an uncomfortable position, you will not grow.
Kat’s closing remarks
Kat: If anybody is listening to this and things, this is what I need to do. I need to walk through Joy Foster’s door because I need to be upskilled because I want to get back to the workplace or maybe just learn a skill. Maybe just because they are a parent and they don’t understand social media. How should they get in touch with you?