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The power of a woman

At the age of 14 I started my first job. I took over from my sister when she left for university to work in Thorntons. I was the obvious choice. I was available on a Saturday, there was an assumption that, like my sister, I was diligent and polite, I loved chocolate and at that age, I had a metabolism as speedy as a rocket – it was necessary.

If you remember the Thorntons of old, we chopped the toffee manually in a tiny back room, weighed it and placed it in boxes separated by wax paper. Often a piece would miss the box entirely and end up in my mouth…. Those were the necessary evils of the job. I worked with two women who, as well as saving the chopping of the toffee for me, also saved me the broken chocolate lollipops in a box in the corner of the counter.  

They taught me how to ice names and messages onto the chocolate easter eggs – A skill I still have today. At 14 I didn’t have the life experience to cope with the many odd messages I was given for those eggs – but I loved it, and I adored the two women I worked with. They boosted my confidence, taught me how to be good at my job and they were kind.

I followed this with a stint in the local library as work experience for my D of E. Again, I worked only with women. There were four women and they kept me busy stacking shelves, researching authors and checking books in and out. It was a dream job. They made me feel part of the team despite the approximate 30-year difference in age. Even now, the smell of books makes me feel relaxed and comfortable. And of course, there was the bonus of not having to pay late fines for overdue books. This might not mean much to some people but with my family that benefit was like gold dust! I went for 2 weeks and continued every Thursday evening for a year. I saved us a fortune!   

Seventeen and my final Saturday job before university saw me working in a local pharmacy and chemist – again my sister was already there, and I danced into this role again due to her wonderful work ethic. I worked behind the pharmacy counter, giving advice, passing over prescriptions and chatting to various shoppers about the best remedy for a cold. Rita, approx. 50 years my senior and with a platinum perm and set, sat on the till at the front of the store and did not move. She chatted to the customers about her daughter - who worked on the cruises - and rang a bell when she had more than one in a queue. The pharmacy was run by a woman – Jen. She ruled with an iron rod but was also kind, funny and warm. I learnt a lot.

So why the memories? Throughout my career I have worked in so many different roles, but it’s those three jobs that I have the standout recollections from. Why? Because they were jobs in which the women – who were much older than me and more senior – treated me with thoughtfulness and respect. It is something I have always tried to take with me through life. I don’t really believe in a working structure by which I as your boss give you the work I don’t want to do, and you just get on with it. It’s important to me that we share the best of the job – and sometimes the worst – although I appreciate the buck will always stop with me. I hope that comes across in my role at Box Legal. Most of our team are women. We complement each other in terms of skills. We have a family feel that I love and a strong work ethic. We have given out four ’10 years and counting’ clocks in the last 4 years – so we’re doing something right. I thank each one of those women at the start of my career for showing me the importance of kindness….and of course for the disappearing library fines and the fruit and nut toffee.          

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