Navigating Male Dominated Spaces: Stories of Female Success

Females of the Future

As we eagerly anticipate the launch of our Females of the Future event next week in Manchester, this blog reflects on how women across various industries have broken the mould to achieve equality and make history. Our event, focusing on ‘Navigating Success in Recruitment,’ will delve into the ongoing journey towards gender balance and the persistent challenges, including casual sexism, that women face. 

Breaking Barriers in Politics 

The recent UK election has been a milestone for female representation, with a record 264 women elected as MPs, constituting 40% of the government. This marks significant progress towards gender parity. Among these trailblazers is Rachel Reeves, Britain’s first female Chancellor, and her sister Ellie, Labour’s deputy campaign chief, will be the first sisters to be sat around a cabinet table.  

Additionally, Angela Rayner has been appointed Deputy Prime Minister, with many other women becoming the first MP’s in their constituencies. 

However, the path to these achievements has not been smooth. MPs Jess Philips and Shabana Mahmood have spoken out about the harassment they faced during their campaigns. Philips, met with heckling during her victory speech, remarked, “I will carry on with my speech. I understand that a strong woman standing up to you is met with such reticence.” 

Triumphs in Sports 

It’s difficult to talk about females and sports without mentioning the Lionesses. Winning the Euros and reaching the World Cup final under coach Sabrina Weigman, they are arguably the most successful football team England has ever produced. The number of female football teams in the UK has doubled in the last seven years, highlighting a significant growth in the sport. 

Despite these achievements, inequalities persist. The pay gap remains stark; as of 2023, Alex Morgan, the highest-paid female soccer player, earned $7.1 million, while Cristiano Ronaldo, the highest-paid male player, earned $260 million. 

Male allies are crucial in addressing these disparities. For instance, Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola was asked about the prospect of winning the first ever domestic treble in English football. He responded “Men’s. The first time in men’s football. The women have won it”.  As he was referring to the Arsenal women’s team, who first won the treble in 1993 and an impressive 3 times since.  

Andy Murray has consistently been a big advocate for women in sport throughout his career. Andy was seen correcting a reporter who said his opponent was the “the first US player” to reach the semi-final of a Grand Slam match since 2009. “Male player,” Murray interjected, as there had been 4 female players who had done this in that time including Serena William’s who went on to win 12 grand slam titles in that 8-year period. 

Balancing Careers and Family 

How can women really do it all? Many women are proving that it is possible to achieve career success without sacrificing family life. Due to significant strides forward, they no longer have to choose between their career dreams and starting a family. 

Team GB shooting star Amber Rutter is a prime example. After giving birth to her first child, she made the Olympic team just two months later and is now targeting Olympic gold. Rutter remarked, “I learnt that life didn’t always have to be centred around competing.” She always wanted to become a mother and trained until she was 28 weeks pregnant. 

Women leaders often face criticism and unrealistic expectations. Former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s resignation highlighted the pressures women face in balancing high-profile careers and personal lives. Despite significant achievements, including being the world’s youngest leader elected at 37 and the second to give birth while in office, Ardern faced criticism for her choices related to motherhood and leadership. Ardern faced criticism and comments that she should’ve avoided pregnancy altogether or taken a longer maternity leave instead of ‘wasting tax payer money’ to travel with her child and breastfeed whilst working. It is all too familiar that women are put in positions of being ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ 

We asked a couple of our upcoming panellists for their insights on navigating success, balancing work, family life, and managing to stay recognised leading players in recruitment. 

Insights from Female Leaders 

Alex Rowbottom - Director at Foundation Recruitment: “Balancing work and life, especially with young children, is hard. We went through a lot of trial and error to work out what felt best for us as parents and as a family.

Priorities change when you start a family and so working for a business that empathises and supports you in the constant evolution of being a working parent is key! Progression, for me, has been the product of unwavering drive & determination, self-confidence (which I've had to work hard on), personal growth and, most importantly, a fantastic support network. Without the mentors I've had throughout my life and career, I wouldn't be anywhere near where I am today. If I could give one piece of advice; surround yourself with people who support you, lift you, and aren't afraid to be honest with you." 

Davina Cooke - Director Exec Search at Jo Holdsworth: "Resilience and consistency are key. Don’t be discouraged when things don’t go as planned. Keep a steady pipeline and don’t rely too heavily on a single big deal. Setting boundaries is essential for work-life balance. I dedicate Friday nights to my kids and ensure work doesn’t interfere. Planning my day and prioritizing tasks helps prevent work from encroaching on personal time. Regular exercise, like running, helps me stay focused and productive." 

Kat Whitehead – Marketing Director at Fruition IT & Fruition Consulting:  “Firstly, you need to be passionate about your role and have a ‘goal’ to strive towards, and if you commit to it, the progression follows.  

Secondly, accept that your days might change. Gone are the spontaneous Thursday drinks, (that does not mean they can’t happen, they just need to be a bit more organised!) this is replaced with picking the laptop up after the kids are in-bed to finish off the task you had to pause to get to nursery on time for pick up. It’s important that if you ask for flexibility from your employer, you are equally flexible (being genuinely interested and passionate helps here!). This is crucial in showing you are serious about your career, and just because you're a parent does not mean your ability or capacity alters.  

Thirdly, priorities change; making time for ‘me’ (going to the gym or for a run) keeps me sane so I make sure this is diarised each week. Secondly, I do at least one nursery run each day – whether that means I get breakfast with my little one or see the joy on her face when I pick her up, I do at least one. Lastly, when I am with my little girl, the phone/laptop are away. I am present – work can be picked up later, after bedtime."


Women have made remarkable strides in politics, sports, and various other fields, often overcoming significant challenges. As we continue to push for gender equality, it’s vital to support and celebrate these achievements while advocating for further change. Join us next week in Manchester to explore these themes and more at our Females of the Future event. 

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