International Women's Day - Jen from the block

Hey, my name is Jen, I’m 31 years old, and I’m the general manager of the 200 degrees flagship shop in Nottingham. I’ve worked for the company for just over six years now, but I’ve been in the coffee industry for approx. ten years. I first worked for Costa Coffee and fell in love with coffee and its experience. Being a creative person allows a creative outlet, and the processes behind producing coffee fascinated me. I have always been driven and thrived on high pressure and developing myself. I’ve had a few people in my childhood that have inspired me with their work ethic and desire to achieve, and naturally followed suit, I started working my way up in the industry to where I am now today.

Being female comes with some challenges regardless of your background/upbringing. Most of the time, women are expected to be happy go lucky, naturally smiley, and almost present themselves physically in specific ways that have become more demanding/unrealistic due to social media and the media in general. It wasn’t always easy growing up; my dad was seriously ill, I struggled with mental health throughout my teens, and naturally, my face doesn’t always show that I’m happy. Working in the customer service industry, this has been a challenge. I’ve been miss perceived over the years. As mental health wasn’t spoken about and almost brushed under the rug, management never bothered to find out what could be impacting me.

I’ve never been a girly girl, and previous administration has favoured girls that portray what social media highlights as ‘beautiful’. Progressing my career, I’ve always had to prove myself more because I didn’t dress/present myself in the same manner as most of the females I worked with, regardless of my performance at work. 

International Women's Day is important because even though times are changing and women’s rights are much improved, there is still a way to go. It makes me proud to see women from all backgrounds be celebrated, whether for professional reasons, single mums, survivors of abuse etc. I think it’s a shame that it’s not celebrated every day as it should be.  

We can help make positive changes by businesses paying fairly and stopping prejudice/discrimination in the workplace. The education system teaches things earlier and makes an impact as children grow up. The government support single mums that also want a career. 

Three people in my life have massively inspired me. My grandma's first; she had a stroke in her early years of life and almost didn’t make it. Her outlook on life was never faulted. She worked hard to bring her family up, provide and keep spirits high. She was generous, selfless, and the rock of the family.

My dad was diagnosed with MS when I was very young, and I grew up watching him never give up; he was a career-driven man doing very well for himself in Rolls Royce, working as a nuclear engineer in the submarine department. There came a day when his illness meant he couldn’t continue with his career. He immediately threw himself into the community and volunteered in the police department. He worked alongside Canine Partners, the charity that provided him with assistant dogs, and he was a constant figure in the media and was celebrated in our town.

Finally, my mum, WHAT A WOMEN. I cannot sing my mum's praises enough. She is one of the most incredible women anyone would have the pleasure to meet. She raised my brother, and I cared for my dad whilst working part-time to help support the family. She volunteered at Childline and finally took the step to go back into a career. She has been through a lot and never lost the positive spark in her personality. She has always prioritised the needs of others before herself. She was diagnosed with breast cancer a couple of years ago and managed to beat it and has been cancer-free for over a year. She continues to inspire me every day, and without her, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today.