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#BreakTheBias, celebrating International Women’s Day at Penna and Stafford Long

This year’s International Women’s Day campaign theme is #BreakTheBias. At Penna and Stafford Long we are sharing our support by exploring perspectives from people across our business, to understand how they challenge bias and elevate the visibility of women in their work as trusted recruitment advisors. From our Managing Directors to those just starting out in their careers, we asked our employees “how do you pledge to break biases towards women in your work at Penna and Stafford Long?”. Read on for powerful stories and personal thoughts around allyship to women in the workplace.

Kathryn Kempster, Director - Attraction and Communications at Stafford Long and Penna: “International Women’s Day is a day to champion women and celebrate the many achievements we’ve made. It’s also a day to think about what else we can do and what more needs to be done, to champion change for all women. Especially those who are underrepresented, marginalised or face discrimination. I want my Penna/Stafford Long colleagues to feel that they can be their true authentic selves at work; it’s important for me to be an ally for women in the workplace. I truly believe that everyone can play a role in gender parity. On this International Women’s Day, I pledge to understand more about bias – both conscious and unconscious. I wish to make a greater difference to my colleagues who I work alongside every day, to ensure that Penna/Stafford Long is a fair place to work for all. By improving my own knowledge, I can support colleagues and clients, to strive for continuous opportunities for women to achieve their full potential.”

Julie Towers, Managing Director at Penna and Stafford Long: “Unconscious or conscious bias must always be challenged, and I am delighted that this year International Women’s Day is focusing on #BreakingTheBias. As a business leader, my mission is to ensure that in our Penna and Stafford Long workplace, we treat each other equally, respect and celebrate differences, and make everyone feel included. By finding, exciting, and securing talent for organisations, we embed diversity and inclusion at the heart of our strategies and approaches, and remove bias from the attraction, recruitment, assessment, and selection process. Through sharing our experiences and learning even more widely, we will continue to play our part individually and collectively in #BreakingTheBias.”

Camilla Alexander, Content and Copywriter at Stafford Long: “As a Black, bisexual woman with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), I bring my full, authentic self to work every day – and have felt comfortable doing so since joining Penna & Stafford Long. I’m grateful to work in an organisation where I am surrounded by talented individuals who I can learn from, not only professionally but also personally. I’m passionate about diversity, inclusion and equity as well as smashing the stigma around mental health and have already had conversations with colleagues about my own. I believe in the power of sharing my own experiences to give others the confidence to do the same. Whether through creative expression or direct conversation, sharing our stories can unite, teach, and empower. Everybody has the right to keep their personal life separate from their professional. But knowing your employer and colleagues appreciate and respect your differences and want to proactively support you in those differences – is vital to feeling happy at work. I will always champion the continuous EDI and wellbeing work within Penna & Stafford Long and take an active role in contributing to the progress they forge.”

Claire MacLeod, Senior Consultant at Penna: “A few years ago, I went to a fascinating and funny talk at Camp Digital in Manchester, by Susan Elizabeth Black OBE FRSA. She is a British computer scientist, an academic, a social entrepreneur and a technology evangelist. She was instrumental in saving Bletchley Park, the site of World War II codebreaking, with her Saving Bletchley Park campaign. Sue’s one of the Forbes World #Top50 Women of Tech and a university professor. She left school at 16, had three children by 23 and found herself living as a single mother in a domestic violence refuge by 25. But this force of nature challenged all odds to become an internationally renowned computer scientist and author.  And she has bright pink hair. She is an inspiration in so many ways, and on so many levels. I highly recommend reading her book, ‘Saving Bletchley Park’, in order to feel inspired, empowered and appreciate the many ways in which women today #BreakTheBias.”

Dawar Hashmi, Director Executive Search at Penna: “Ever heard the saying “It’s a man’s world”? Well, it’s true. But it shouldn’t be. We’ve been having the debate on gender inequality for decades now. We’ve made some good strides in the right direction, but we are nowhere near where we need to be - whether it’s on the global political stage, in sports, in the FTSE 100 or in any other industry or sector. We cannot claim to have levelled up until and unless we have an equal number of women in leadership positions.”

Gemma Matin, Sourcing Lead at Penna: “Women do not need to wear a masculine mask in order to effectively lead. There is unconscious bias around women in leadership being very masculine. The truth is that women in leadership are the most empowering when they speak and lead from their truth, whether that is masculine or feminine. Feminine power demonstrates qualities such as nurturance, compassion, and empathy – qualities that lead economies at scale and in all sectors and walks of life. From families, to partnerships, friendships, teams, businesses, and countries. I am personally so grateful for the incredible female, and feminine, leaders in my life both personally and professionally, who lead from their truth. If you can look outside of the stereotypical bias which confines you and be true to yourself – you encourage others to honour their truth too. Happy International Women’s Day 2022, #BreakTheBias #reclaimyourpower!”

Charles Wilson, Practice Director Executive Recruitment at Penna: “There are many everyday things that ‘most’ people take for granted. For example, in terms of how a product works and its ease of use, what health benefits we have available from our employers, the hours of a working day or what we get paid, sports equipment, sports clothing and training programmes. But when we state ‘most’ people, we actually mean men. Because the majority of these things have, historically, been designed around them and for them. Wouldn’t it be great if these and many other solutions were designed keeping women in mind too! Seems simple doesn’t it… and so it should be! #BreaktheBias”

Odette Treadwell, Education Research Strategist at Penna Education: “I’ve been very lucky in my lifetime. I’ve always had access to education, and I’ve never been short of inspiring women around me. In my current team, I have supportive male colleagues too. I’m in my current situation because of where I was born and the safety nets around me. In the Education Team at Penna, we help recruit students to universities. We often target countries where women don’t have the same access to education as men. We also target the UK, where women have access to education, but don’t always feel safe when leaving their homes. According to a recent survey conducted by Times Higher Education, 57% of international students will look at a university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion before deciding to apply. Ensuring that these commitments are vocalised and actioned will help to build a more diverse and supportive community that will benefit everyone.  Challenging clients to take this into consideration is how I pledge to break biases in the workplace, through my work at Penna Education. By exploring ways to ensure campus safety for women, scholarships they’re eligible for, and even women’s groups that they could join, we can encourage more young women to apply to university.”

Emily Fieldhouse-Moakes, Associate Creative Director at Stafford Long: “For me, #BreaktheBias is about opening up, standing up and speaking up. It’s about actively listening and having honest conversations. It’s about being brave with our ideas and actually making them happen. I’ve personally had a long journey to finding my own voice and feeling confident enough to share how I feel and what I think. Where before I’d keep quiet, now I’ll speak up. Being part of Penna and Stafford Long has helped me on that journey, in so many ways. I’ve been incredibly lucky to work with, and have vocal support from, people I genuinely look up to. And now I want to encourage others and lift them up, too. I’m proud to work somewhere that’s dedicated to breaking bias every day. That celebrates individuality. That empowers women. And that cares about constantly learning and growing.”

Leah James, Marketing Assistant at Penna: “This year I want to support IWD and #BreakTheBias by continuing to collaborate with other companies in promoting equality for women in the workforce. I was recently able to do this through a project with Accenture. We were tasked with helping them recruit female identifying students studying STEM for their graduate career events. I was excited to take on this project as women are still severely underrepresented in the technology industry. Despite the amazing contribution that have been made by women, recent research shows that only 19% of the tech workforce in the UK is made up of women[1]. This project allowed me to connect with university gender and feminist societies as well as female students directly. Many of them were so grateful that we reached out to them. For me this illustrated the importance of equality for women, we shouldn’t be forced to work harder than our male counterparts to achieve the same representation. We must all come together, work hard to #BreakTheBias and create greater equality for women.”

Alexis Curtis-Harris, Head of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at Penna: “I am a woman, who empowers other women. Whilst united by our gender identity, it’s our experiences that shape who we are and make us all wonderfully unique individuals. I acknowledge and celebrate the intersectionality of gender equality (I guess you could call me an intersectional feminist), and so when I say I empower other women, I mean ALL other women. In my role, I actively advocate for equality between all genders, whilst understanding how the overlapping of identities can impact the way people experience bias and discrimination.  I speak up, not over, and I use my position and privilege (because yes, we all have forms of privilege) to educate others and stand up for what I believe in. I listen to and stand with all women- not just ones like me- because no-one should feel invisible in the fight for gender equality.  My vision for the future is a gender equal world, free from stereotypes and discrimination that’s diverse, equitable and inclusive. A world that is free from bias and where difference is not just tolerated but valued and encouraged. As a society we have a long way to go, but collectively we can all make strides to #BreakTheBias.”

Kadie Hodges, Head of Comms Strategy: “I have always loved the phrase ‘we rise by lifting others’. It’s something I always want to live by. For me, it perfectly encapsulates the importance of all women as a collective coming together to break biases and support the success of others. Because when one of us grows, we all grow. We grow towards a world where there is gender equality and biases are non-existent. Where your potential and individuality are what is valued, nothing else. I am lucky to work at an organisation that has helped me find my confidence and see the value I can bring. But it’s something I need to continue to work on because that ‘inside voice’ of doubt’ is a pesky one. So, I pledge to use my position of privilege to help women rise. To continue to remind them of their potential and value. To help them see that they can go wherever they want to. To paraphrase the amazing Michelle Obama, to get to a place where girls say ‘I decided I wasn’t bossy, I was strong. I wasn’t loud, I was a young woman with something important to say.’”


At Penna and Stafford Long, we help organisations find, excite and secure the best talent, and D&I is at the heart of every piece of work we do. If you would like to attract and secure diverse talent, please get in touch via

We wish you a very Happy International Women’s Day!

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Dawar Hashmi joins Penna as Director in our Executive Search Recruitment Business