The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is breaking the bias. The goal is to break bias that exists in our communities, our workplaces, our educational institutions and help create a diverse, equitable and inclusive world where difference is valued and celebrated.

In recognition of International Women’s Day, we spoke with Paula Cartwright, our Group HR Director. Paula’s career with CPP spans over 16 years, and during this time she’s worked in various roles in our People team. Last April, she embarked on her next step to become our Group HR Director. In this blog Paula shares an insight into her career story and her personal experiences with bias.

“Bias is something that we’ve all faced at some point in our lives albeit in very different ways. For me this bias wasn’t connected to gender, race nor religion but directed at my socio-economic background. I grew up in a single parent family, living in a council estate. My mum ensured that we had all we needed but it wasn’t difficult to feel the differences between some of my friends and myself. Back in the 80s, career expectations for children coming from this kind of background weren’t high. Very few children were expected to go to university and build a decent life for themselves.

I remember a time at school when it was implied that because I lacked money and, a male role model in my life, I would likely struggle to understand the hard-work and motivation needed to build a successful career. How wrong that person was. My mum is one of the most resilient and hardworking people I know. She taught me the importance of independence, encouraged me to push myself at school and to believe that I had the ability and right to go to university. She also taught me the importance of kindness and treating people in the right way. Ultimately, she encouraged me to push through barriers because she could see the potential inside me, even when I couldn’t see it myself.

When I stepped into the Group HR Director role last year, my mum was incredibly proud. She reminded me that all the hard work that I’d put into my career had been worth it, despite some sacrifices along the way. Taking on the role wasn’t easy, it occurred in difficult circumstances with little time to process the increased responsibility. The Imposter Syndrome quickly set in and is only starting to settle now. My biggest concern was the impact that it would have on my family and work/life balance. I’ve never subscribed to the theory that women can ‘have it all’.

My experience is that one thing is often sacrificed to benefit another. For example, things at work can be going well but that can be at the expense of spending enough time with my daughter. Fortunately, I’ve got a great support network around me and over time I’ve learnt to lean on this… sometimes I can be far too independent for my own good! One of my biggest supporters is my husband. Sadly, his job was lost early in 2020 as a direct result of the pandemic. During this time, he took over the responsibility of running the house, home schooling our daughter, supporting our parents and myself as we worked through some challenging times in CPP. When I was promoted last year, he wanted to continue to stay at home to help me be successful in this role. He could see the challenges ahead of me and wanted to be there for our family. Despite facing some ridicule for his decision, breaking the bias that he shouldn’t be a ‘stay at home’ dad has had such a positive effect on our family. He has such a strong bond with our daughter and our relationship has never been stronger. I know that he’ll go back to his career when he’s ready but for now he’s enjoying the opportunity to do something different.

Our daughter, Lilian, is about to embark on her Secondary School journey with her friends. These children have so much untapped talent to offer this world and I feel privileged to be able to support them over the next few years. For Lilian especially, knowing that she’s grown up in an environment where we really have broken the bias at home, fills me with hope that she’ll never be afraid to challenge any barriers that she may face and will never hesitate to use her voice to shape her future.”