Happy International Women’s Day! With 69% of our managers across the organisation being female and a 61% female trustee board, we are proud to empower our female workforce to grow and succeed every day.

To celebrate the day and this year’s theme – ‘Inspire Inclusion’ – we asked some of our female leaders when they have stepped out of their comfort zone during their careers and what advice they would give their younger selves.

‘Faux pas can happen, but it’s ok!’ – Natalie Willetts

Natalie has worked in social care for 24 years and her current role at AFG involves overseeing the strategic planning, team management and quality assurance of AFG’s Community and Care Home services, as well as working with colleagues on our growth strategy.

When have you stepped outside of your comfort zone during your career?

I previously worked in a faith-based charity, and as an atheist, sometimes attending religious events made me feel a bit daunted as I wasn’t familiar with the terminology used within the Catholic faith.

I was asked to attend an event called the National Deacons Assembly and felt outside of my comfort zone – and I did a bit of a faux pas with the Archbishop of Liverpool that day…

I had already met him several times, so I said: “Hi Malcolm, how you doing?” then quickly noticed everyone else greeting him with bows, curtseys and calling him “Your Grace” – I cringed and thought I had made a show of myself, but he was fine about it! My lesson is don’t worry if you make a mistake, but make sure you always learn from it for next time!

What advice would you give your younger self? 

It’s ok to be scared. We learn through our mistakes, and we cannot grow unless we are pushing ourselves to do something extraordinary.

‘Physically moving out of my comfort zone overseas – but I never look back!’ – Edel James

Edel has worked with AFG since 2007, joining first as a Systems Planner and then progressing through to IT manager and into her current role as Head of IT.

When have you stepped outside of your comfort zone during your career?

I would say moving over to Liverpool from Ireland for my first IT role at AFG. I was apprehensive about leaving friends and family, but I knew deep down I needed to move on to progress.

16 years later I never regret it or look back because I’ve grown my leadership skills and am so grateful for the opportunities I have been given.

What advice would you give your younger self? 

Never give up! All the hard work and studying will be worth it in the long run. Don’t worry so much about the future – and enjoy your youth because the years just fly by so quickly!

‘Juggling work, university and being a mum’ – Tilly Simmons

After joining AFG at age 18 as a Support Worker, Tilly progressed into senior roles and is now Director of Operations of our Community & Adult Care Home provision.

When have you stepped outside of your comfort zone during your career?

Back in 2016 I made the decision to enrol on a Masters in Business Administration at Liverpool John Moores University. That was despite being a mum to an 8 and 10 year old at the time and holding down a full-time senior manager role, because I wanted to achieve my own career aspirations.

Going back to university and enhancing my skills and knowledge has helped me to do that, but I was definitely out of my comfort zone in quite a male-dominated learning environment – but I am pleased to say that I graduated with a distinction, and it really helped me on my journey.

What advice would you give your younger self? 

Be kind to yourself. Sometimes things don’t go as you first imagined, but that’s ok because what’s meant for you won’t pass you by, and consistent hard work will lead to success.

You can hear more from our senior women leaders in the video below: