Interview : Clare McClintock, Action for Children
Clare McClintock is 27 years old and is from Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh in Northern Ireland. She has been an employee with leading children’s charity Action for Children since May 2012 – becoming Northern Ireland’s first Participation Worker. She works in the Floating Support Service with young people and Care Leavers who are 16-25 years old who are homeless or are at the risk of becoming homeless.
How would you describe yourself in five words?
Honest, approachable, motivated, determined and hard-working
Looking back, what is the best piece of advice you would give yourself at the start of your career?
I would say, believe in yourself. At the beginning of your career it can be overwhelming and daunting but self-belief is so important. I was only 23 years old when I began my career within Action for Children. I found it quite scary and intimidating as I was the youngest member of the team, however I did not allow that to overwhelm me. I observed, listened and put into practise everything I had learned from others. I believe in a willingness to learn, I enjoyed learning and attended as many training courses as possible that would support me in my new role. I would say not to shy away from the challenge, it can only get better – and it did for me.
What more can organisations do to help women get ahead?
I think it is important for organisations to create opportunities for women to be enabled and empowered to progress. Positive, active and visible role models are vital in organisations as it sets a leading example and something for other women to aspire to.
The creation of a women’s network may be beneficial whereby women of similar interests can meet on a regular basis, share ideas and examples of best practice. This would provide an active forum for women to come together and collectively bring their ideas, suggestions and views to decision makers in the organisation. This would provide a powerful, visible platform for other female employees to highlight and believe that women are valued and equal members of the workforce.
I think flexibility within the organisation is important, not only for women but also for men – particularly those who are parents or carers. A degree of flexibility in dependence leave or maternity/paternity leave is important as women and men should not feel penalised for choosing to start a family.
In terms of equal opportunities for staff that are on maternity leave, the creation of an opportunity for them to be informed of permanent positions that have become available so that they can also apply and not miss out on progression opportunities within the organisation when they’re not in the workplace could also be beneficial.
“I think it is important for organisations to create opportunities for women to be enabled and empowered to progress. Positive, active and visible role models are vital in organisations as it sets a leading example and something for other women to aspire to.”
How important are men in achieving gender equality in our workplaces and beyond?
I think it is important not to establish a ‘them and us’ culture. I believe it is important to create a dual approach to achieving positive outcomes and changes. I feel that gender equality is not a ‘women’s issue’ but the responsibility of all individuals and requires the active contribution and input from both men and women. A positive and enthusiastic attitude to a willingness to learn is so important. I think opportunities and platforms to learn from one another are integral to development and learning.
Change will not occur on its own, it requires commitment and team work to create it.
Have you ever experienced gender bias or prejudice during your career?
Thankfully I have not experienced it.
How important do you think it is that we have visible diverse role models in our workplaces?
I think it is imperative to have visible and active diverse role models in our workplace. Imagine how boring the world would be if we were all the same! It is important that we have diverse workforces so that we can reflect the diverse society that we live and work in.
Within Action for Children, our award winning LGBT+ network ‘Celebrate’ is pro-active and visible throughout the organisation, having published several reports, leaflets, guides, posters, t-shirts, emails signatures and articles on our internal intranet. This provides a sense of openness and acceptance for LGBT+ staff and service users, informing them that this is an organisation where you are safe, valued and are welcome. It provides an environment where people feel comfortable and safe to be themselves.
“Imagine how boring the world would be if we were all the same! It is important that we have diverse workforces so that we can reflect the diverse society that we live and work in.”
Did you have a role model growing up?
My role model growing up was my teacher Mrs Smyth. She was always so positive and encouraged us to always to do our best. She was very enthusiastic, fair and treated everyone with compassion. I really admired her and I try to echo these qualities in my day to day work with young people.
Who is your campaigning hero?
I find this difficult to answer as I cannot pin-point an individual. I admire individuals who have suffered trauma or a difficulty in their life. For example, people who have lost someone to suicide, drink driving or murder and they find the strength to create a support group or pressure group to firstly support other people who have had similar experience, secondly to raise awareness of the issues and thirdly to lobby Government to make change. I find their strength very inspirational that they can turn something so negative into a positive and attempt to reduce the suffering for anyone else who may be affected by it in the future.
Do you think workplace network groups have the power to influence positive changes in our workplaces and communities?
I do believe network groups have the power to influence positive changes in our workplaces and communities – I believe in power by numbers.
I am a member of our Inclusion Champion Network and I have found it very empowering to have met colleagues all in different roles and teams throughout the organisation with a shared vision of creating change for the better.
Along with the Inclusion Network, there is also the LGBT+ Celebrate Network and Faith Network, and by attending meetings each member has been provided with the opportunity to have their voice heard to create change. By being actively involved in networks, staff are empowered and encouraged to offer ideas and recommendations.
I believe the same for our communities. If there is a common goal, people work together in an organised manner to bring their ideas and views to decision makers – then change can happen.
“I do believe network groups have the power to influence positive changes in our workplaces and communities – I believe in power by numbers.”
What is your personal network group highlight?
I enjoy attending Inclusion Network training on a quarterly basis. I enjoy meeting like-minded individuals who are passionate about equality and diversity.
The training that we receive is extremely beneficial including inclusion, gender inequality, mental health, unconscious bias and LGBT+. From attending training it has developed my knowledge and confidence in working in these areas.
Being a member of the network ensures that equality and diversity is situated highly on your list of priorities in your day to day work. I ensure that equality, diversity and inclusion is on our team meeting agenda and therefore is discussed on a fortnightly basis by the team.
What are you most proud of in your career and personally?
In 2013, one year within the organisation, I was nominated by an external agency for a Stephenson Award. I felt so valued and honoured to receive my award in the House of Lords. I couldn’t believe it, I was only doing my job!! I felt so appreciated and valued.
I always feel proud when I support a young person and have been on a journey with them and witness them achieving their dreams and they are doing well. I always feel proud knowing that I supported them and helped them to be where they want to be and made a difference to their life.
Is there a motto or quote that means a lot to you?
I believe in “team work makes the dream work” – you can’t achieve anything on your own but when you work as part of a team, you can achieve so much more.
8th March is International Women’s Day. The day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and puts the spotlight on the global action needed to accelerate gender parity. Find out more at www.internationalwomensday.com
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