CEO of Smart Works - Kate Stephens | Women Influencers Interview | Womens Day | Hobbs

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Kate Stephens joined Smart Works – a charity that offers women the clothes and tools to succeed in interviews – with a mission to make their services available nationwide. As someone who meets women on a daily basis wanting to feel confident, she offers her tips on becoming more empowered.

WHAT'S YOUR MORNING ROUTINE?

Weekday mornings are all about logistics. In my house there are five people heading in different directions and at least three of them needing constant reminders to eat breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth, brush hair and put on shoes! That’s one of the reasons why I always wear a dress to work as it keeps things simple and streamlined. It’s also my work armour – as soon as I’m dressed, I’m ready to start the day.

WHAT'S THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR DAY?

I love the moment when I open the door in the morning and walk into Smart Works. All of our centres are designed to be calm, inspiring and aspirational spaces where a women can immediately feel safe and at ease. It’s like a weight has been lifted the moment you arrive. It has that effect on staff too.

WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU FACED IN YOUR CAREER, AND HOW HAVE YOU OVERCOME THEM?

I’ve learnt to take a long term view of my career. Everyone has moments of energy and brilliance when everything comes together perfectly. Then there are other times when it’s tough and it feels like progress is slow. This is particularly the case for women, who are much more likely to take on caring responsibilities for children or relatives, which of course impacts on careers. For me, the secret is to be realistic with your goals, honest about your progress, and to find what you are passionate about and put your energies there.

HOW DO YOU STAY MOTIVATED?

My team. At work, the staff and trustees who make it happen, our volunteers who bring our service to life and our clients, who come to Smart Works every day, looking for the clothes and the confidence they need to go on and succeed at interview and change their lives. At home, my family and friends who are the ground beneath my feet.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO WOMEN WHO WANT TO FEEL MORE EMPOWERED IN THE WORKPLACE?

Two things. Firstly, do something you love. This passion will empower you beyond anything else and it’s impossible to fake. Secondly, know yourself, where your strengths lie and then play to them. Being empowered comes from understanding all this. It’s also key to have people around who know you well and can help keep you on track.

WHO DO YOU MOST ADMIRE AND WHY?

Our clients. Asking for help is tough. We are all proud, especially when it comes to what we wear, so for a woman to come to us and ask us to dress her, and coach her, is a great privilege and takes great courage.

WHAT'S YOUR PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENT?

Taking Smart Works from a London-only site to a national charity, empowering women across the UK to succeed at their job interview. This is why Smart Works is the Social Action Charity of the Year, and I’m so proud of everyone who has made that possible.

IF YOU HADN'T BECOME A CEO, WHAT WOULD YOU BE?

I always wanted to be a Blue Peter presenter. Or become a deep sea diver and find the Mary Rose. And then when I was 11, a Blue Peter presenter went deep sea diving and found the Mary Rose. Part of me has been at a bit of a loss since then!

HOW DO YOU UNWIND?

With my friends – all brilliant women who can laugh and enjoy each other’s company without any pretensions.

WHERE IS YOUR HAPPY PLACE?

In the sun, by the sea, with my family.

WHICH BOOK WOULD YOU HIGHLY RECOMMEND?

A Brief History of Seven Killings. It’s a book written in patois about 1970s life in the Jamaican slums, centring on an attempt on Bob Marley’s life. It has nothing to do with my own life and yet it’s the most vivid, gripping and memorable book I’ve read in years.

TOWN, COUNTRY
OR COAST

Town.