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SCAN sat down with Isabella Ford, current Lancaster University student and Co-Founder and Owner of feminist website She Works http://www.she-works.co.uk, to find out all about the project and the blossoming business woman behind it.
What sparked the idea of She Works?
Last September  I was starting to think about what I want to do after university. I do English Lit, which isn’t the most vocational of subjects, so I tried to look online and find interviews with really successful people in certain positions and find out how they’d got there, but I couldn’t find a resource in one place. I remembered that Glamour magazine do a feature every month where they interview a woman in a ‘glamorous career’ and it got me thinking. First of all, waiting monthly for that isn’t going to really do much in terms of helping you with your career prospects, and also, where were the careers that are perhaps seen as not so glamorous? So I thought, “why isn’t this something that I could be doing myself? I could be going out there and contacting women to interview.” I ran it past my dad and he said, “yes, that’s a really good idea” and so I started the website. I spoke to my best friend from home, Katie Whitford (She Works Co-founder) and my friend at uni, Ashley Threadgold (She Works Creative Editor) and got it set up and organised.
How did you create the name?
We thought of doing a take on the Kate Bush song, This Woman’s Work, and doing ‘This Woman Works’ but then thought it was too similar to the campaign ‘This Girl Can.’ We just wanted something simple and to the point, so as a joke really I went, “what about ‘She Works’?” And Katie said, “actually, I think that kind of works.” I was telling another friend at home the idea and he laughed and said, “oh, it sounds like you’re making an adult film website.” I kind of laughed as if to say, “I can’t believe that,” but at the same time it’s sad that you take the female pronoun of ‘she’, add it to the verb ‘works’, and people automatically assume it must be something sexual. That cemented the fact that, “yes this is what I want to call this.” We need to break that stereotype, that underlying stigma.
What are your main responsibilities for the website?
We’ve got to contact women, usually just phoning or emailing them from information we get on the Internet. At first it was very much about using connections, now a lot of the time it’s just us sending out loads and loads and loads of emails, which nine times out of ten people won’t respond to. There’s the actual interviewing itself, you’ve got to transcribe and edit the interview. I also do the website design. Then we share it through social media, on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. And then on top of that, we also have a features page that needs articles regularly to add to the weekly newsletter that goes out on a Thursday. There’s quite a lot involved and it kind of covers all aspects so it’s nice I’m in control of my own work experience, I can choose what I want to work more on or work less on.
Is it difficult juggling managing the website and your degree?
Yes, it is! That’s probably my greatest challenge. I find that during the holidays I go crazy and do so much stuff for She Works. It was a good move getting a team of interns involved, because that relieved some of the work pressure on me, and also gives the interns the chance to put something on their CV and develop some skills that perhaps they wouldn’t have a chance to develop otherwise.
How has the project grown since you first started it up?
We’ve been working on the idea since September 2015 and the website went live January of this year,  so it’s been talked about for over a year and in a couple of months the website will actually be a year old. It’s grown, it’s developed, we’re in a particularly big growth period right now with more and more people getting into it. In the beginning, as I said, we just sent out email after email and used our own contacts, where as now people are coming to us. We had this really cute guy send us a message on the website, his name is Bob Lovett and he was saying, “my wife, she’s going to disagree, but my wife, Amanda, is amazing! Please can you interview her? I might be biased but she’s the best person, you’ve got to interview her! She’ll be so embarrassed to know I’m sending this email but please, I think she’d be happy to do it.” So I’m arranging an interview and she’s just as sweet.
Where can you see the website going in the next couple of years?
I’d quite like to start doing video interviews. The thing is, the charisma and the personality and the amazingness of the women we interview doesn’t come across in an article as much as it does on the phone or in person. They’re cracking jokes and they’re just generally amazing, and you can’t get that from an article. You can try, but especially with a Q&A format it’s hard. I’d like to have the opportunity to show these women to the rest of the world. We’re doing workshops and talking at conferences and some of the feedback we’ve had from the conferences was for things like message boards, so we know if people are asking questions about a specific career that we might not have even heard of. The point of it is that it’s communal; it’s information for everyone. It’s for women, by women. We’d also like to get some sort of sponsorship for the website. I’d like to get our own email address, but it costs money and we’re all students so we can’t really afford that.
What’s the best interview or best story you’ve heard that’s come from She Works?
I love all of them. Every single woman I’ve interviewed I have just adored. One of the first interviews I did was with Catherine Mealing-Jones, Director of Growth at the UK Space Agency. I got out of this interview and was stunned. She was being so frank, talking about how she balanced being a full time carer for her mum whilst trying to hold down a part time job at Asda and earn money, she was really struggling. Now, she’s in such a position of authority and she has this amazing job. Her biggest challenge was the fact her partner is an A&E doctor and they have a young son together, but her partner is going to have to give up her own job to look after their son just because child care costs are too high. Even though this is a director of the UK Space Agency and a doctor, they can’t afford to have their child looked after while they’re working and that’s such a shame. Catherine was just so heartfelt, she told us so much and was so willing to share and give her own advice about dealing with these issues. But since then we’ve had so many other cool interviews, they’re all amazing. The fact they agree to it in the first place!
A question you ask in all of your interviews for the site is “do you consider yourself a feminist?” So, do you consider yourself a feminist?
300% I am a feminist! It’s really interesting because we do ask it in every interview and I’ve had such a mix of answers. Some people say, “no, I’m definitely not a feminist, I believe men and women are equal,” which completely misses the point of feminism. I do think it’s a term now that maybe, if we can’t bring it back, we should start thinking about a different way to talk about it because the word ‘feminism’ has become such a dirty word. We focused on female careers in particular just because I am a huge feminist and I do know that there are a lot of issues for women working. It’s an issue I wanted to bring forward and bring to people’s minds, while also giving girls information about how they could go out and do what they want to do.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to other students wanting to start their own website or business?
The hardest part is the actual step it takes between an idea and an actual product. You get things all the time where you turn to your mate and say, “I just had a sick idea,” and then it doesn’t come to anything. To put yourself out there can be really daunting, but I think if you have an idea, or something you want to do, or something you’re passionate about, then 300% give it a go. Don’t just let it be something you forget about. Really focus on it, plan it, develop it and make it into something amazing.
Interested in getting involved or becoming an intern for She Works? Know an inspirational women you think should be featured? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit the site at http://www.she-works.co.uk or find them on social media.