Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Sexism in football. Why we should place more faith in women but also recognise that sexism isnt a one way street Part II

So if you read part one of my blog and wonder where the story goes next I’ve now decided to make the tentative steps into entering a world which is a field entirely dominated by women and being a man taking these steps the level of pressure I felt was immense not only from within but from society as a whole. Not only was I making the choice to quit my career at the peak of its success to go and look after my children I was now training to become a child minder. Once again I was to be the only man surrounded by women but so far I had always managed to more than hold my own but could I go one step further and take on a female dominated profession at their own game? Time would tell.

I started writing this blog as homage to women and the women in my life that have made an impact on how I’ve handled my working career. Without them I wouldn’t have been the success that I have been down the years. As a Portsmouth fan since 1986 and off the back of last week’s programme about Sexism in football, I firmly believe hand on heart that from experience if our club would have had a female CEO in place instead of Peter Storrie that we wouldn’t have ended up in the financial trouble that we did. My first ever manager knew how to handle men in the business world. She knew every approach in the book on how to handle members of staff and she was an absolute gem and I owe her so much its untrue. She would have been able to handle Mario Balotelli better than Mancini does at Manchester City. I state this as a fact because I was a bigger pain in her arse to her than his high profile on and off the field antics for Manchester City this season. Sadly as you’ve learned I was never on the same money and have never been or will ever be close.

I could and should have been fired on many occasions during my apprenticeship. The first words I ever uttered to our Managing Director was that I would have his job one day. The irony being that several years later he would turn to me and say do you remember what your first words to me were. I cringed. He told me hand on heart that he fully believed that if I stayed in the industry that I would indeed have his job one day. I’ve had no higher words of praise from a man I learned to have the uppermost respect for in business and in life. He knew everything that went on within our company and when he was in charge the entire company pulled together. He could tell you what time you farted and what you’d had for dinner the previous evening. Honestly nothing got past the man he was a total genius at what he did. He was an outstanding leader and I’ve never come across the likes of him in business again and doubt I ever will. If I am half the boss he is then I feel I will be doing well towards the staff I currently lead.

The impact of women on my working ethos has always been huge. Apart from my first MD I haven’t met a male boss in the top echelons who I have thought has done an outstanding job yet I have encountered so many female managers that have done an amazing job that never seems to be recognised alongside their male counterparts. Far too many organisations have taken an old boy network approach as to who gets fast tracked. I have worked under and alongside women who are far more capable than men at their job yet haven’t been given the chance to fast track their careers in the same way and I fully believe that businesses are missing out in the long term by hiring the wrong people. I cannot imagine a female CEO at Pompey who would have signed her name to some of the utterly ridiculous contracts under written by Peter Storrie. They were JK Rowling esque in the utterly ridiculous notions of what he promised players and the sums of money involved could never be sustained. The average stay at home mum working on a limited shopping budget every week would have quickly flagged that if you had fifty pound to spend on your weekly shopping that when your first two entries on your shopping list are Moet and Truffles that the budget isn’t going to have stretched by the time you get to Tampax and Spaghetti hoops. It’s an absolute no brainer and to write yourself a win bonus when you’re a fat man in a suit making bad calculations really does take the biscuit as far as I’m concerned. I re-iterate the point most strongly that a female CEO at Pompey would not have allowed the same situation to have arisen at Pompey and I stand by that statement 110%.

Sod it make it 120% just for good measure.

So I’m now spending my weekends learning about being a Child Minder and working towards the necessary qualifications. During the week I’m working on the house getting everything up to scratch and working on every angle to make the business a success but there’s a big arrow above my head whilst this is going on and it says the word male. I cannot hide the fact that I am a man training to look after children and I’m looking after my infant children at the same time.

I qualify from my course and I’m now an Ofsted Registered Child Minder and I can advertise the fact. The question remains having done all the ground work and I’m now advertising my services would I manage to persuade any parent to entrust the care of their children to me – a man in what has always been a totally female dominated world. I was and I’m being honest here – totally gob smacked when I got my first phone call within a week of being qualified from a lady asking if she could come and talk terms about looking after her son. She was totally honest with me and said that she had gone through three child minders in the space of four months who couldn’t deal with her son and was hoping that I could look after him pre and after school and during the half term. I asked her if she minded if I spent a little time with her boy and had a chat with him and she had no objections. I wanted to make my own opinion up about the lad and not listen to anything that had gone on in the previous few months with other child minders. I wanted to judge the lad on his merits. So off we went and we started bouncing outside on the trampoline. I asked him about his interests and his hobbies. From just a few bounces I ascertained that he was a compulsive liar but not in a harmful way. It was attention seeking stuff and that like all boys he was just trying to make his mark in the world. He certainly needed a lot of help but I was more than willing to take him on. He was a good kid at heart if not a little wayward and needed some guidance. His mother also identified that he was dyslexic and had certain learning problems. I stood by my claim that like a finger print no two children are ever the same and that I would tailor my care towards his needs on a daily basis. Both parties happy I had my first child to look after. I had set out on my own in business and I was also a stay at home Dad. Anyone who’s had an email from my Daddy Day Care email address and has ever wondered where it came from, you’ll probably now be thinking this makes sense all of a sudden.

Not long after I signed another two lads up to holiday care and things had started for me. They weren’t flying in comparison to other child minders in the village but I had started and that was the main thing. Then came the inspection from Ofsted a little under three months into starting. Any teachers reading this will share the anxiety I had at that point but worse for me was the fact I was a male taking work that has always been considered a female’s job and on the day of inspection I was about to be judged on my handling of a young boy who’d gone through child minders like hot dinners.

The female inspector came early on in the afternoon. We chatted as I amused two small children and she went through my paperwork and did various checks on safety around the house. She stayed in her car outside the house whilst I went on the school run and returned with my two and said boy in toe. The previous day he couldn’t understand something in his lesson and I had promised him faithfully that I would get my computer out and show him what he had missed. I sat with two wriggling toddlers vying for his attention as well as his and somehow managed to hopefully demonstrate that I was capable of looking after children for a living. After his collection and my partner at the time had returned and had taken the children off for dinner I was sat down with the inspector and praying I’d done enough to be considered that I could do this for a living not only to the basic standards but to a good or better standard.

I will never forget the words she said to me. One of the basic premises you have to outline as a Child Minder is all the aspects of care that you will undertake for the child when they are with you. She told me that in over twenty years of being an inspector that my handout to parents was the best and most detailed she had ever seen. Her last words to me were that I was an example to men everywhere and she hoped that more would follow my lead and start to join the profession – We need more men like you. At the end of the visit she said I didn’t need another inspection for two years and she was rating me as Good on the score chart and that she fully expected me to be on the outstanding list when she made her next visit. Once again I had no idea how I’d managed it but I felt I’d arrived and certainly managed to stick two fingers up at the rest of the profession.  Mostly though I was heavily relieved.

My competition in the village consisted of two main people both of whom were women. One didn’t have the best of reputations but I wasn’t worried about her. The one woman to dislodge was like competing against Ghandi or Mother Theresa. My partner’s eldest two children had been under her care and she was considered by even my partner to be the bee’s knees. I can state quite categorically now looking back and now she’s retired that an involvement with the local girl guides and brownies associations on top of being a child minder doesn’t actually qualify you as being a good child minder. Every child I was privileged to look after had their own programme based on their needs. After I left the profession both my two were looked after by the aforementioned woman and I can hand on heart say they never received anywhere near the level of care and attention that I provided for all the boys and girls that I looked after in my time as a Child Minder. I wonder now what I was worried about when I first set up. Whilst the children I cared for came from circumstance like broken homes and no male role model, I can look back and know I’d made a difference in all their lives and a real positive contribution. The first lad who was seen as the trouble maker actually had a problem with expressing himself and making himself understood. We changed basic things to the way he phrased certain things for example he would take things in a literal sense. Say to him have a good weekend and he would reply I will. Knowing him as I did I knew how he’d processed the information and replied to it. We worked and practised on him changing positive sentences towards him being ended with two simple words – you to. I’ll never forget the look on his teachers face as she wished him a good weekend and he smiled back and said to her “You to,” I thought she was going to melt.

I stuck my neck on the line for the lad and had said to his teacher that she needed to give him time to fathom out his answers in his head to questions rather than punish him for saying the first thing that came into his head which would often lead him into trouble and him being sent out of class even if it meant saying to him she’d ask his answer in a minute and get him to put his hand down. Under my guidance he flourished and on his last day of primary school the Head Mistress took me to one side and candidly admitted that the school had gotten things wrong with how they’d dealt with the lad and what an absolute pleasure he’d been since he’d come under my wing. She said I’d done wonders for the lad and that the school had learned a lot at the same time at how children should be educated. These words meant more than you can ever imagine.

Another lad that came into my care was as smart as smart can be yet his parents couldn’t handle him at all. To them he was the child from hell and they would apologise for his behaviour when they picked him up and wouldn’t ever accept that he’d been an angel for me. I never once had an ounce of trouble from the lad and quickly ascertained that he was just very, very bright and needed challenging at a level above his peers. I taught him a memory trick to do with words whereby he had to remember a sequence of twenty words in a correct hour. I managed to get him up to the level where he could easily remember 100 words in a sequence like he was reading them off a list in front of him. He blew me away. He’s now hoping to study to be a Doctor and is still using the same techniques.

My most challenging work involved three young lads whose mum was in a coma fighting for their lives. They were the grand children of an ex work colleague and they had grown up in London and never really visited the countryside. They were with me for three weeks and all aged under ten they had no understanding of how ill their mother actually was and that she was fighting for her life. The boys had an absolute blast as did me and the kids during their stay with me. Their grandmother bless her heart has exclaimed that when I die I should be listed as a Saint. As a Pompey fan that’s always the biggest no, no in my book but I didn’t take issue with it under the circumstance. She wasn’t worried about the cost of childcare during those three weeks she was watching her daughter fight for her life. I didn’t worry about child care costs either at the end of the three weeks. How could I have taken a penny under such circumstances? The boys were an absolute pleasure to look after and how can you take any money in those circumstances to profit from someone else’s pain? I couldn’t take a penny, just knowing I’d been able to help during their time of need was enough for me.

During all this my first born had been diagnosed with having cerebral palsy which unlike most parents who would have been knocked for six, I took it all in my stride. She had been born seven and a half weeks premature and had spent her first night on life support fighting for her life with none of her vital organs showing any signs of kicking into gear. I had been told to expect the worst and that she wouldn’t make it through the night. I spent her first hours darting between her and her mother who was high on morphine tying to look after both of them and encourage her mum to come down onto the ward and visit the child she thought she had so desperately failed at this juncture. I lied through my teeth and kept telling her how our new born baby daughter was fine fearing that if she were to die she would never have seen her. She kept asking me if I was telling the truth. I was lying through my teeth. With my then partner totally out of it high as a kite of pain killers, I spent the rest of the night with my hand through the incubator stroking my new born daughters back and talking to her telling her how much I loved her and anything else that would come into my head as the nurses and Doctors watched on checking all her vital signs as she fought for her life. All through the complicated pregnancy I’d spent hours talking to a bump about football and how my day had been and how I couldn’t wait for her to be born. Here we were now hoping that a miracle would occur and that she would live beyond her first night on earth. I have no idea looking back that first night how I didn’t shed a tear. Something came over me and the will and determination to make sure my little girl survived just kicked in.

It was a week later when I was given the honour of first holding out daughter in my arms covered in wires still fighting for her life. I have a picture of us at that moment which always reminds me of how small she actually was and how close we came to losing her in her early days. I can remember the doctors diagnosing her with cerebral palsy, I can remember them telling us how she’s most likely never speak, how she’d never walk. Well I can tell you aged eight her mouth is truly like her daddy’s and she’s an opinionated so and so and although she may sometimes need to use a wheel chair and relies on her walking frame in school to get around, she is more than capable of walking when she puts her mind to it and it’s very rare she feels any different to any other child. Her daddy made sure of that  in the time that he looked after her when she was knee high and I pushed her and pushed her to ensure she had the best physio I could provide day in and day out. It wasn’t easy but life never is and there is no way I was going to let her grow up feeling any different to any other child just because she has a disability. Wisely aged 8 now she’s decided she wants to support Arsenal rather than follow in her Daddy’s footsteps and be a Pompey fan and I don’t blame her quite frankly but she did make me smile on Saturday morning when she said to me if Pompey lose to the scum this afternoon I will be well annoyed Dad. I must have done something right with her.

Things didn’t work out between me and the kids mum for whatever reason and I found myself back in the real world working for one of the largest companies in the world which at that point were turning over 8.5 billion Euro’s a year. The interview lasted two days and at one point you had to undertake a NASA test I kid you not. For the first time in my career I had entered a totally male dominated environment. We were working with builders and carpenters as clients and whilst we had female reps on the road it’s safe to say that the team ethos was built behind a lads philosophy. One of our main rivals had employed a female rep on one of my colleague’s patches to try and take the business away from us. These were the heady days before the recession hit where deals were brokered on a daily basis that wouldn’t happen now. Our clients would phone the rep up in question and get her down on site just to eye her up and had no intention of swapping their business from our company. The sad thing is she ended up sleeping with the rep on my patch just before he left under a murky cloud and she left with my price book on every price that my new clients were paying for their goods. Had she gone in with half a brain and blown me out of the water on prices I’d have lost even more clients than the previous rep had managed to alienate. Luckily she had tried to undercut me by pennies rather than pounds and using what I’d been taught by successful business women I re-cemented the business. Then the recession hit home and it hit hard and unemployment followed which was hell on earth for me and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.

As I write I’m back in full time employment running a wines department. Always breaking the mould as always. The conclusion to this blog is to highlight the role that both men and women can bring to differing jobs in businesses were one sex is the most dominant. I took women on at their own game and I succeeded. I never totally broke down the barriers and I’m sure no man ever will manage it, but it’s not to suggest that had I been able to carry on in my career that I wouldn’t have. I split up with my ex and I no longer had a house to operate from as a child minder. Career over – Null and void and such is life I will never know. But what I do know is that the women who have shaped my career I believe could and should have been given the chance to replace some of the men I’ve had the misfortune to work under.

I’m going to leave it to a man far more talented than I will ever be, Mr Sam Cooke – A Change gonna come. Whether it happens in my lifetime I’m sceptical, but one day women will rightfully earn their places in the top echelons of businesses including football on their own merits.

Just remember though there are men more than capable of challenging women at their own game. Perhaps one day we’ll all meet in the middle and find a level of acceptance. I doubt it will ever be in my lifetime though sadly.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Sexism in football. Why we should place more faith in women but also recognise that sexism isnt a one way street Part I

Many years ago when I was wet behind the ears and had a chip on my shoulder as large as they came I was enrolled into a YTS programme whereby I studied for NVQs whilst gaining experience on the job. I was sent for three job interviews on the same day and was offered all three positions that I went for. Despite the interviewee telling me I was vastly over qualified for the role on offer she very kindly offered me the job and I readily accepted it without hesitation and I got my first foot in the door in the world of the newspaper industry. It probably won’t come as a surprise to regular readers of my blog that my mouth nearly turned it into the shortest career in newspapers that ever happened but thankfully my boss persisted with me and the rest is history as they say. I genuinely don’t think my achievements within my time with the company will ever be repeated in the current financial climate. Those days are long gone. The reason I mention it is having watched Gabby Logan’s documentary on Sexism in Football, I feel from experience I am better placed than most with my CV to comment on the way the business and sporting world not only treats women and discriminates against them but actually vice versa in other industries equally towards men. There is always a story to be told on both sides of the fence.

At primary school I was put up a year and fast tracked because of my intelligence. By the age of eight I already had a reading age and spelling age in my 40s and was being singled out for greatness in the future. Like the majority of boys though at that stage all I wanted to do was kick a ball about the school field. Being jumped into a year above wasn’t a problem for me educationally but socially I couldn’t ever adapt. Bullying was rife and when presented with the opportunity to go to middle school a year early or go back to my friends, I picked up my ball and repeated the same year I’d already advanced through with some aplomb. For me I was back with my peers where I belonged. Life wasn’t easy it’s fair to suggest but I was much happier. This tale I tell will cross many boundaries along its path so bare with me if you will.

I mention the want to kick a ball around a field. I came from the generation where playing football was pretty much exclusive to only the boys apart from one girl who would always play with us every single break and lunchtime. I have no idea what ever happened to Kerry but I will say she scored as many goals as any of us ever did messing about back then. There is no reason to think or suggest that women cannot adapt to the male game if they play football from an early age. We used to call her twinkle toes because she always played with us literally running around on her tip toes. I can imagine that evolution was getting her ready for later in life tottering around in a pair of high heels. Who knows? All I know is that she was a dab hand in front of goal and when selecting teams as captain she would be in the top four picked every game.

So as kids we never had any notion of not picking a girl because she wasn’t from the same sex as us. We wanted to win the game. Children are brilliant because they see life in a way that adults cannot do. There are no prejudices involved. Children see other children quite simply – as other human beings. Prejudices are passed down from generation to generation. They are engrained into our society sadly from one generation to another. To break that cycle will take a massive change. I’m not sure it will ever happen fully in my lifetime though things have gotten a lot better through my experience though I’m still shocked when I hear tales otherwise.

Around the same time a good friend of mine moved up from Watford. He was a Wimbledon fan and even some two decades later he still owns the pair of Dons socks that I brought him for his birthday many, many moons ago. That tells half the story I guess because growing up I had no pre-conceived notion of racism and I’m sure he didn’t at the time either. He was our friend and will always be first and foremost but growing up in a hugely conservative area where the white skin outnumbered any other colour by a tentative estimate of 1000 to 1 and that’s possibly undervaluing the actual number, it was only later on in our teenage years that we ever started to realise the prejudices that exist in all walks of life. I still stand by the fact that had Stephen not moved up from the out echelons of London when he did life could have been very different indeed. Like Kerry with her twinkle toes and Stephen with his talent playing football, life could have been very different years later but as kids we never judged. In life that is only taught by ignorance and I hope one day that ignorance will finally be in a minority.

Whilst in 2012 racism isn’t spray painted as it was everywhere in my teenage years glorifying idiotic groups such as the National Front and the BNP it certainly was an issue for us growing up altogether and learning about life. The estate next to ours growing up was covered in graffiti supporting such groups and despite Stephen always telling us he was fine to walk home through the said estate I am proud to say he never once walked home alone. He was one of us and we always worried about his safety far more than he ever did. It was a musketeer philosophy if ever there was one – One for all and all for one and that’s never changed where I’m concerned. In my life I will always judge people on their merits and not by the labels that society places upon them because of their background.
One famous example for me of ignorance personified happened when I was on training for one of the world’s largest companies down in Surrey. Me and one of the lads from our group had taken a trip down to Petersfield one night to get away from the constant hours of learning and have a gander and get away from it all. I’m going to use two scenarios at this juncture; myself and Alfie went out to get away from the pressures of our course and to take in the local sights and sounds. Myself and Alfraz went out to get away from the pressures of our course and to take in the local sights and sounds. There’s one word different between the two scenarios and that’s the spelling of a name and how one man identifies himself in his home country. Whilst my friend was born under a Muslim name, everyone who knows him and loves him calls him by a more friendly English moniker. Does he take offence to that? Of course he doesn’t. He’s thrilled that his friends love him and accept him enough to be considered one of them. To know that if any trouble starts that he isn’t going to have to go into a one man battle against prejudices that still exist.

We walked through Petersfield and walked past a pub where several white youths were gathered outside smoking and drinking. They spotted us from 60 to 70 yards away and we both clearly heard one of the lads shout the word Paki and in no time they had all left their pints and had mobbed up walking towards us. In an instant I told Alfie to just nod along with what I was about to say and under no circumstances to say that he supported Arsenal and if he did he was on his own. The main ring leader approached us and started mouthing off. I asked him what his problem was and told him quite directly that we’d come up from Pompey and were on a training course and what was his exact problem. Instantly his reply was “You’re Pompey lads?”

“Yeah,” I said. Actually being a Pompey fan I wove into the reply how we’d gotten on the previous game whilst Alfie stayed very quiet. Satisfied with the answer I’d given the main guys attitude totally shifted. I felt sick as he shook Alfie’s hand and suddenly he was accepted because I’d said he was a Pompey fan. Is that how acceptance works when the colour of your skin is involved? Says a lot for society doesn’t it.

So Stephen and Alfie had both encountered problems growing up as would Kerry had done if she’d been selected to play in our games at middle school on her ability. That was never an issue that I saw because she transferred to another school. Sadly looking back I have no idea whatever happened to her but looking back I wonder what if? Could we have trail blazed our way to change back then?

So back to YTS. In fairness I should have been fired on numerous occasions. My temper was legendary and had been for years. If someone working for me as a male boss had done one tenth of the same things I did back then, I know I’d have had him out of the door in a flash, it was inexcusable. I was lucky to have a female boss who believed in me and saw my raw talent and was determined to mould it. I owe my first boss more than I can ever say. Whilst her boss wanted to fire me on the spot she kept on with her weekly hour or more lectures and I started to deliver. My first project given was a Reader Holidays programme. The previous year it had earned the company under a grand in revenue for the entire period. At the end of my first year of looking after it I had rolled in a total of £57,000. Not bad for something my boss at the time had said I’d spent far too much time on. We went from having a tiny 15 by 3 advert in the free paper every week to an eight page pull out in the main paper, designed and written by me – someone who had no prior training in advert design or marketing. Before I moved on we’d already hit the same yearly figure after six months into my second year. The boy was proving the female boss correct. Yes I was a pain in the arse but with a female hand in charge I was on my way.

Money was the issue when I switched roles within the company. I had been earning £45 a week for doing a 37 hour week full time. My first starting wage was £4,865 full time. My boss re-arranged her budget for the year for an agreed salary of £7,500 for a lad who had made over £100K for the company he was working for having been paid just £45 a week. She spent hours trying to keep me in the role and moving figures about. The top brass dismissed it in an instant. Instead they gave me a role in the accounts department on the same money ahead of 97 other applicants.

Here’s where life gets interesting for me. Apart from the company accountant I’m now working with 18 women who are all mothers or in some cases mothers and grandmothers including the under boss of the department who quite frankly hates the fact she’s been told by the managing director to employ me because the company doesn’t want to lose their rising star in the ranks. I went through hell for 18 months working in that department. The culmination for me was an error over a set of figures we had to roll out every Friday. The figure was wrong and she tore an absolute strip of me in front of the entire department. Calmly I told her three or four times that if she checked the report she would find I had nothing to do with it but she carried on and persisted with her high voiced shouting match so that afternoon I took the paperwork and strolled into the Managing Directors office whilst she was still going hell for leather at me and I placed it upon his desk. Still going at me I asked him to identify who the report had been produced by. He asked me why as she followed me into the office. It’s fair to say that the dressing down she got over the incident was legendary and I was given the rest of the afternoon off.  This was 18 months from hell in a female orientated environment. It works both ways it’s fair to suggest and that’s what doesn’t get reported enough.

So three years in and I’ve had two female bosses with totally differing attitudes to me but I’m making waves and shaking things up. I’m gaining access to figures that I shouldn’t be able to have access to and the Managing Director comes to me over the rest of the entire accounts department when he wants something. Not because I’m male but because I don’t bull shit him. If he wants a figure over forecasted revenue figures on a Thursday afternoon he comes to me because he knows I can deliver within £500 of the attributed final figure come Friday morning. If he asks the Company Secretary the same question or the Advertising Director he always said the figure ranged from £5,000 to £10,000 out every week. He told me he didn’t want to know how I did it but knew I had a bright future ahead of me and that he would watch over me closely.

So I changed roles again. I’d forged close relationships with the advertising team during my time in accounts and they couldn’t wait to poach me. It was somewhat ironic that my underboss didn’t realise me from my roll for two months to take up my new position.

My first days training consisted of 45 minutes of being told this is a set of cards. I want you to ring people up and ask them if they need any advertising. I was told nothing about how the revenue is worked out or how ad design works. I literally got asked are you happy with that and naively I said yes - Off I went and hit the phones. We’d taken centrally the recruitment advertising of two of our smaller titles and these were now my babies. The smallest of the two was averaging two or three recruitment adverts per week and was losing out hand and fist to our biggest rivals. Revenue generation was less than £100 a week and that’s being generous. My first ever advert I sold was a 3 by 2 and earned the company about £17. I had no clue about what I was doing and it took me an hour going back and forth on the phone to sort it but I’d broken my cherry. In the next six months I averaged three pages of jobs per week for that paper and had brokered a sponsorship deal with a local recruitment agency. Revenues averaged around the £2K plus mark every week. The other title also saw a minimum of two pages of advertising per week doubling their revenue. The boy was on the up. So for the third time in my fledgling career three female bosses had influenced me somehow to a large extent. Two through nurture and one through a desire to prove her wrong and ram it down her throat with some aplomb.
I possibly should have mentioned that like my first role when I moved to the Accounts Department I was given the handling of a sub department that no one really wanted to handle, this time being the  the subscriptions department and once more I’d driven home the figures week after week. I was proving whatever I touched would turn to money and vindicated the faith put upon me by my first female boss and eventually the top dog – the MD making the decisions.

Two roles in I’d proven myself yet had experienced sexism and abuse first hand. I wasn’t an angel I will admit but sexism isn’t a male problem far from it I can testify to that first hand. So I’m making waves financially for the company and I’m given the keys to our flagship title and I’m told to go make my mark. I was suddenly the number two rep to the golden girl who everyone loved and would place their advertising with. I knocked her out of the water within four months and she was moved sideways onto motor advertising. Pre 9/11 and computerised systems I was totalling up my revenues to on average £25K plus a week. When we finally went computerised I put my first million on the books in just over  a year and in the second year I put another million on the books in just over ten months. My salary at this time was a little over £12K a year - Go figure. I was and will always remain the most cost effective employee in history. This is my point however – Twice out of three managers who had all been female – they had placed their faith in me and I had delivered. The middle manager had no faith in me but I still had delivered. I will stick my hand on heart and say their belief and judgement as women is what made me a success without a shadow of a doubt. Raw talent turned good sure played a large part but both my first boss and my third boss recognised that talent ultimately.
So I’ve put two million on the books with consummate ease and built up a reputation of a man who gets things done. I cannot under estimate the volume and level of traffic from advertisers who come to me first locally and nationally with adverts that have nothing to do with me. The trust and faith is there and I’m repaying it head on, day after day. So what was next for me? The previous property manager had left under a cloud and I was asked if I would take on the roll. I can remember my boss telling me that because I was dealing with estate agents day after day I would have to smarten up. Did I listen to his advice? Of course I didn’t. I smashed all publication records and revenue records and totally rebuilt all the trust that had been lost and we had a blast. 18 months previously the company had paid a shy under £80K for a system that would revolutionise the face of property advertising. In the end it did but it took me and a good friend of mine from the production department a good 18 months to finally crack the system and all its flaws into what was an amazing piece of software. We had it so good that a 52 page supplement would take a couple of hours to produce with the software, something that would have taken 4 or 5 days to do previously and I’d kept all the local and national advertisers on board and added several more clients.

Life was on the up and my career was on the up. My stock couldn’t have been higher. My first child had been born and my career was still flying. My second child had been born and I was making serious money for the company and I mean serious money. Yet I wasn’t making serious money. In fact my wages were a joke and I mean a real joke. For someone who makes over a million a year for the company my leaving salary was just over £14,800 per annum and that’s before tax. Faced with the prospect of a nursery bill of £1,050 a month I kid you not we had some serious financial planning to do. If I paid the bill every month I’d take home less than £100. So I quit my career to look after my kids. In doing so I had to generate a living. Everyone had always said how great I was with children and someone has jokingly said why don’t you become a child minder. The week before I left I sat on a board meeting about how things were going with the new property system. I was the only person there that wasn’t a Managing Director, a Director or a Line Manger. I’d been asked to lead the meeting in relevance to the progress we were making at that time and to basically name our price as to what equipment we needed. My production manager was in heaven at the time because we got all we asked for and more much to the disgust of the regional IT Director. When asked how long it would take me to deliver the final package I turned around to the Regional MD and said I’m leaving soon. His face was a picture. He never did understand that I chose to quit my career at the height of my success. He asked me if there was a package laid down for me to stay. I shock my head. He was flabbergasted that no one had even been attempted to put the wheels in motion for me to stay.

I was off to take on women at their own game. Not only was I going to be a stay at home Dad I was going to be a child minder governed by Ofsted. If women in football think they have a hard time I can promise you on the flip side that I encountered all sorts of prejudices in my time taking on women at their own game. Our Regional MD for reference pulled me aside after the meeting and asked me to name my salary. I told him that no money would pay for the opportunity I had to see my kids grow up first hand. He told me I had a job for life if ever I chose to come back to the industry.
At this point I owed all my success to women and I’d made some serious money for the company. After eight and a half years or success after success I was about to try take on a totally female orientated world at their own game.

It's worth pointing out that my Director of Advertising was a male who we liked to call Bambi on the sly on account of the fact that he never stood up for any of his staff. I genuinely got pulled into the office on one occassion and received a dressing down from him because I didn't join in with the banter enough. I asked him if he was serious that I was being given a bollocking because I came into work, ran my nuts into the ground, made the money I did and didn't get involved in the gossip and office politics. He was serious as well and I was stunned into utter disbelief quite frankly and I lost the tiny ounce of respect that I'd ever had for him in the first place. So far apart from me second under manager all the women I had ever encountered in business were winning hands down for me.

I can remember my first ever appraisal with my Advertising Manager. It consisted of about 40 seconds. She told me that my work was first class and that she didn't have any complaints about me and that she wished she had a team of me as her life would be a doddle. She asked me if I had anything I'd like to add and I said no and that was the entire appraisal. The woman that had gone in previous to me had taken well over an hour as had the one after me. I jokingly started clearing my desk when I came out and said I'd been fired. It was one of those great Kodak moments for another twenty seconds before my boss came out and asked me what I was doing and the game had been given away.

Again our advertising team apart from myself was made up of all women. I'd like to tell you that I didn't have one sexually based comment made towards me during all the years I worked on the team but I would be lying. The banter was quick and fast and I can promise you that sexual remarks being made to people isnt the exclusitivity of women by any means. I put up with so much of it yet I never said a word to management. People might say as a man that I would have enjoyed it? All I can say is that I wasnt working for the Hugh Hefner in the Play Boy mansion. Fun it wasnt.