This week to mark International Women’s Day 2022, we sat down with 5 local women who have made their mark in their chosen fields to discuss the challenges they have encountered along the way. We start today with Karen Gardiner, Director of Ground Espresso Bars Ltd.
What prompted you to start your own business?
Going back many years I wasn’t happy in my workplace and wanted to do something for myself.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘Break the Bias’ – can you share any experiences you have had of gender bias or prejudice?
There isn’t a woman alive who hasn’t been affected by bias. It is part of everyday life; it tends to take the form of small day to day comments. It can be from people who look beyond you to a male colleague. Misogyny takes many forms, men treating you differently, though not necessarily badly or even sometimes from other women who don’t expect you to be in charge.
In your experience what are the main challenges faced by women in the business world?
The main challenge lies within the person – challenging yourself not to let other people’s opinion get you down. If you are easily offended by what a man, or anyone else says to you – you really need to develop a thick skin.
What advice would you give to other women who are considering starting up their own business?
I would give the same advice as I would give to a man. Make sure you are on top of the figures from day one. Don’t rely on your accountant to tell you when you are making money otherwise you will find it difficult to react quickly to emerging situations.
If I am thinking about what advice to give to a woman, I would stress the importance of having a mentor, be that your mother, sister, or another female role model. There is often a problem for women when they are unsure when to speak out against a barbed comment made against them. Judgement as to when to speak out comes with experience and it can be difficult to strike the right balance. If they have a mentor to advise them on how to keep perspective in these situations, this can be very helpful.
Karen is the Owner and Operations Director of Ground Espresso Bars, one of the UK’s top coffee houses operating 34 sites and employing over 250 staff across Ireland including units within Waterstones, NEXT, Translink, Tesco and company owned on street sites.
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