Bethan Gill is an Associate Director in the Talent Solutions department at Grant Thornton UK LLP. She is a qualified tax accountant and specialises in supporting businesses to meet the legislative challenges that they face around their employees, including the Apprenticeship Levy, Gender Pay Gap reporting and employment status.
Bethan was raised in Norfolk and returned to Norwich 3 years ago with her husband and two children, now aged 5 and 7. She works 3 days a week, 1-2 of which are spent in London where she jointly manages a team of 10 people.
When she is not working or being a mum, Bethan enjoys running and playing hockey, both of which combine her passions for keeping fit and socialising.
What inspired you to join We Can?
I first heard about the We Can programme at a networking event and thought it was something I could get involved with as a mentor. I considered it further and realised I was at a crossroads with my own career. Working as an employment tax manager in Grant Thornton’s Norwich office, I was at a point where I was looking to progress but didn’t know how to get to where I wanted to be, or what my dream role looked like.
The programme came at the perfect time as, for the majority of my working life, my career had taken a back seat to my husband’s. Now I was ready to really focus on my career. However I needed support in balancing this ambition with home life and spending time with my two young children. Becoming a mentee on the programme seemed like a brilliant opportunity to get this guidance.
Can you tell us more about your experience of being a mentee on the programme?
The great thing about the programme is having access to support from a really inspiring group of females.
As a mentee, I was allocated a coach, Alison Wilde from Birdsoup, and a mentor, Tessa Haskey from Howes Percival.
I met with Alison at the beginning and we set three goals about what I wanted to achieve in the short, medium and long term. We also did a personality insights analysis which was really useful in helping me understand my strengths and how I can work effectively with others.
From setting these goals, it was clear that a challenge for me was how to progress my career yet balance my home life. I didn’t feel I would have as many opportunities if I wasn’t a full time worker so We Can played a huge part in giving me the confidence to achieve this balance.
Meeting with my mentor monthly provides a brilliant sounding board to express my hopes, fears, dreams and challenges to someone independent. One thing I particularly struggle with is believing I am good enough at whatever I am doing – whether that’s work or parenting etc. Tessa has been really mindful of this and continuously worked to boost my confidence and provide reassurance. This has been invaluable in helping me achieve my goals.
You’re now half way through the 12 month programme – are there any key successes you can share so far?
I know it sounds cheesy but We Can has been life changing for me, or at least helped me to change my life.
During this six month period, I have already achieved or exceeded all my original goals so have subsequently set new ones.
From being a full-time manager in Grant Thornton’s Norwich office, I was promoted to senior manager and then offered a brand new role in our London office as an associate director in the Talent Solutions team which I’m able to do part-time, spending time in London and Norwich.
The role was advertised as a full time position in London so initially I wasn’t going to apply as I wanted to work three days a week. However with the support of my mentor, I not only had the courage to express my interest, but also to set my own terms.
I’ve realised that it’s not how many days I’m in the office that’s important, it’s the value that I bring to the team. I’m lucky that Grant Thornton has a great culture around flexible working and I think more employers are starting to embrace this too.
What would you say to mentees looking to join the programme?
I’m a huge fan of We Can. In just six months I’ve gone from feeling disconnected and a little bit lost, to feeling motivated, engaged and excited for the future.
For anyone at a crossroads in their career looking for a way to take the next steps, We Can offers an external sounding board and a fresh perspective to help put your focus and energy in the right direction. Having a safe place to express my fears and ambitions – no matter how big or small – has given me the confidence I needed to take my career in a new direction.
And finally, what role do you think We Can has to play in Norfolk?
Gender disparity in the workplace is currently high on the agenda as it is costing UK plc in terms of losing valuable resource and productivity. Norfolk is no different and with the results of Grant Thornton’s latest Norfolk Limited report showing just 15.8% of directors in Norfolk are female (compared to the UK figure of 22% and global average of 24%), it’s really important we address this lack of diversity of thought at board level and throughout our organisations.
We Can is more than a programme for individuals. It is a whole network of inspiring females looking to share experiences and support each other to achieve success and change the norm.
Illustrator and Founder of Sprout Studio
Izzy has undertaken commission work as an illustrator for a number of consumer brands and founded Sprout Studio in 2016 under the guidance of the Prince’s Trust. Sprout studio aims to provide a safe and nurturing environment for people to grow creatively while under the supervision of a practising artist.
What inspired you to join We Can?
When I first approached Rostrons about the ‘We Can’ programme, I walked into a boardroom full of women and it was so refreshing – a group of empowered individuals willing to share their expertise and time with others. The way they spoke so passionately about supporting and inspiring female leaders really excited me, so I applied to join the pilot scheme and really chased it down. I was delighted to have been selected.
For me, ‘We Can’ was all about investing in people, and that spoke to me because that’s what I do at Sprout Studio. I believe that if you can move people to feel good about themselves and become confident, that’s beneficial to them and to society as a whole. Happy, positive people who feel nurtured and supported will go on to show their resilience and strength to others, and it will have a knock-on effect. As a woman running a business, it’s important to me to be a good role model to other women and to be part of a legacy for future generations of female leaders.
Can you tell us more about your experiences of being a mentee on the programme?
Right from the start, there is a lot of time invested in making sure the programme is created bespoke for you and your business. Initially, I completed a personality profile with an expert who was then able to match me to my mentor. From there, I was able to explore where I wanted to improve myself and any areas where I particularly needed to gain strength and competence.
I meet my mentor, Elizabeth Claxton of Rostrons, for monthly sessions to discuss my plans and goals, and how best to reach them. As part of ‘We Can,’ you have an opportunity to have fireside chats with professionals who can give you general advice or direction in challenges you are facing, and those have been invaluable.
For many of us, we’re in a niche area of work, and you may be surrounded by people doing the same thing as you. I have many design and illustrator friends, and they are great, but sometimes you need to take yourself out of that bubble and surround yourself with other professionals who have a different perspective and a range of experience. I’m so lucky I found that with Elizabeth.
You’re now half-way through the 12 months programme – what are you highlights so far and are there any key successes you can share?
It’s been a safe environment for me to experiment with different models for Sprout Studio and then come back to debrief with my mentor. I have tried things, done my field research and then been able to look over the results with her so I can see what’s working and what isn’t.
There have been challenges in my day-to-day work where I have sought Elizabeth’s advice on how to handle them and learn more about how to operate in the corporate world. For example, if you’re busy and somebody approaches you with a commission and you need to say “not now”, but not shut the door on working together in the future. All these little bits of learning have been priceless.
I have also developed a newfound respect for numbers. My mentor has helped me to overcome my fear of finance and to start interrogating the budget and returns so I can make sure everything adds up. As a creative person, it is easy to get excited by an idea and sink lots of money into it, without ensuring that it’s financially viable. Talking about money can be tricky as it’s an intensely private thing, so having a safe space to discuss this has been fantastic. The advice my mentor has given me is unbiased and honest, so I can work out how to do what I love and bring in a return. If you can get a balance between those two things, you’ve got it right – and ‘You Can’ helped me hone that skill.
What would you say to mentees looking to join the programme?
Don’t hesitate to apply and go for it! Striking out in business and trying to grow your company doesn’t come without its challenges. You can’t get anywhere without the support of others and this is an excellent opportunity to get that kind of practical help.
If you are lucky enough to get onto the programme, make sure you are willing to listen and self-reflect. I have come to understand the value of feedback and how it helps you to improve and grow. When you are in a programme like ‘We Can’ you know any criticism is constructive and comes from people who are on your side and want to help you figure out the answers.
If you commit yourself to the scheme and go in full of enthusiasm, you’ll get that back ten-fold. It’s been life-changing for me. I’m all about personal development, and I love to seek out professional people and value their skillsets. ‘We Can’ has given me the opportunity to work with people I respect and admire, and I have learned so much.
What role do you think ‘We Can’ has to play in Norfolk?
I have lived and worked in Norfolk for ten years now and it has so much to offer. Having ‘We Can’ in Norfolk is incredibly important because it can make a real difference to future generations of women. I’m excited about how many more female leaders will thrive thanks to initiatives like this because it’s great to have more inclusivity and diversity. For young girls, seeing women in leadership roles and being entrepreneurs will have a big impact and I’m excited by the opportunities the next generation will have.
When women are empowered by other women, and we work together to achieve progress, it’s powerful. It gives us the chance to reach our full potential and to bring about social change that will benefit everyone. I named my business Sprout Studio because it’s all about how we grow and feed that growth. For me, ‘We Can’ has been about growing through listening, observation and experience and that combination looks likely to yield transformative results for me.