Stacey Dooley: My tips to women starting out in their career
Stacey Dooley talks about what it was like for her to start working as a young woman in TV journalism, and gives her top advice to all girls plotting their future career.
Being a girl today means that we have a much wider range of career options – and what an amazing feeling that is.
For a long time it felt that women were always up against it that bit more than men. But it isn’t like that anymore. We have young women fighting in our army, in the fire service, construction, even in space. We are politicians and CEOs of global companies. Give a girl a dream and she will conquer the world!
As a young woman in a previously male-dominated industry, TV journalism, I have also sometimes felt the pressures of being measured against the guys doing the same job. But I have always held close the knowledge that my professional peers and I understand that being a woman has no impact or bearing on me being good at what I do. So I’ve never dwelt on the fact that I’m a woman in my industry, and I believe that this approach is one of the things that has taken me so far. But I know not every woman feels like this, and sometimes the way we talk to ourselves can be what actually limits us. So what can we do?
Challenge your thoughts
I believe that, as women, the best thing we can do is to go out there, experience those things that scare us and challenge those thoughts.
While we were filming my new series The Nine to Five, I met a lovely 18-year-old called Abbey. She had finished her exams and didn’t know whether to go on to further study or start for real in the workplace. She also thought that some jobs were traditionally for men, and others were for women. For someone who calls herself a proud feminist, she didn’t feel comfortable with that. She doesn’t believe that being a feminist is a complicated concept: she believes, as I do, that it’s actually quite simple. Being a feminist simply means you believe that men and women should been seen equals. That’s it!
So I took Abbey and four 16-year-olds for some work experience at Heathrow Airport working in engineering roles at the airport. These were jobs that are being done by women there, but might be seen by some as men’s jobs. Abbey got the opportunity to be hands-on in both the construction and the mechanics departments, and she loved it. It was a pleasure to watch her getting stuck in, changing tyres, drilling, and working on the maintenance of the airport’s electronic transport pods. There was nothing she shied away from, and she made it almost her mission to prove that girls can be just as strong as any male counterpart. She even encouraged the other two girls on the team to enjoy being an engineer for the day!
No such thing as a job for girls
It reminded me of all those times people may have misjudged me, a young girl from Luton wanting to make sense of big current affairs topics for an audience of my peers, and in my own style. I think it’s really important that we remember that there is no such thing as a ‘man’s job’ or a ‘job for girls’. Most employers agree and are making a real effort to empower young women to get out there and do the jobs that we might have been apprehensive about doing. Our gender has nothing to do with the career we want, or how capable we are at doing our job.
So I would say to you: if you feel that’s an issue, the first thing to tackle is your own self-doubt. Try out different jobs; try any job that interests you - that’s what’s important. Accept that some might not be for you, and remain curious and open-minded. But never, ever think: “I can’t do this because I’m a girl.”
Take the plunge and take advice
It’s so important to realise that things are often scarier in your head than they are in reality, so take the plunge and don’t let anyone discourage you from that – although always be prepared to take advice, especially from other women who have been there before you.
If you know an inspiring woman, whether it’s a more experienced colleague, a teacher or family friend, ask them to mentor you. You’ll probably find that each and every one of them has her own way of being strong and resilient, both in her personal life and in the workplace too.
Finally, the age-old question: does it matter what you wear or how traditionally ‘feminine’ you look? As you know, I am not someone who dresses up for work with loads of makeup and heels (apart from on the Strictly dancefloor!). I don’t want to feel like I am trying to be someone else day in, day out. So be smart and presentable, but wear what makes you feel comfortable and what is practical for and appropriate to the job you’re employed to do.
I guess all this can be summarised in one single tip: don’t be the best woman in the room. Just be the best you can be.