How Sidekicks London's MD is 'challenging the outdated ideals endemic within the market'

Jessica Williams, Managing Director of Sidekicks London, is no stranger to initiatives that help support individuals in the workplace – earlier this year, for example, her agency joined forces with London charity Free Me in a bid to help women suffering from addictions and eating disorders back into the workplace.

She has said the secretarial industry, which she recruits for, “harbours one of the last bastions of ‘acceptable’ sexism.”

Trying to make the industry a better, more diverse, and more inclusive place is her mission.

Speaking nearly a year after her firm was created, she said she recognised that, with discrimination rife in the recruitment sector, the industry needed a recruiter who understood the changing nature of modern support and would prioritise the needs of candidates as much as clients - challenging the outdated ideals and protocol so endemic within the market.

She says: "Flexible working isn't a concession, it's a life choice. As an employer and an advocate for our candidates, it is possible for a person of any gender to have everything as long as they are operating outside of this outdated, rigid environment. I honestly believe in [a decade] we'll all think it's bonkers that we all had to get on a train and be in the same place at the same time every morning. When you put people in an environment where everything is geared towards convenience, support and common sense they will flourish - and so will your business."

She feels it is even more critical that attitudes towards expectant and working mothers are open-minded, fair, and nondiscriminatory. This kind of employment helps foster a sense of trust and likewise a sense of responsibility to deliver and honour that trust.

She continues: “Before founding Sidekicks, I worked for twelve years in administrative roles supporting CEOs and successful businesspeople - within industries as diverse as US-based investment banking to London retail property. During this time, as many other females in their 20s will also tell you, I noticed that potential employers (particularly small businesses) were often nervous of hiring women who appeared to be of child-bearing age because they were apprehensive about the cost to the business of supporting maternity leave.

“A recruiter once advised me to take off my engagement ring for an interview in case the sight of it ‘set off alarm bells’. I was explicitly asked in [an] interview by a potential employer [whether] I wanted to have children and when I was thinking of having them. Although replying in the negative, I was quickly reminded that I was approaching 30 and so might change my mind ‘within a year or two’. Unsurprisingly I didn’t get that job’.”  

Williams concludes that it is up to those in the industry to lead by example – with the long-term benefits of this colossal.   

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