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It’s International Women’s Day on Friday 8th March 2019 and we have taken this opportunity to talk to our Mutual Manager Sophia Reed and our AIM Director Tricia Rawlingson-Plant from Mill on the Brue about their experiences within the activities sector.
How long have you been working within the activities sector and how did you get involved?
37 years in the outdoor industry. I have always liked sailing, walking, exploring and travelling. I got involved also through my husband who was in the army and had been a queens scout, was seconded to Outward Bound for 2 months, had undertaken various expeditions and climbed etc. We lived in the Outer Hebrides for nearly 5 years and it was there that I got inspired to really show our visitors what you could do in a place which had no visible attractions!
I have been working directly within this sector since January 2018 when I joined AIM as Mutual Manager, but prior to that as a lawyer, I defended members’ claims since 2008.
How long have you been a Director on the AIM Board? What has been your experience of working with the other fellow Directors on the Board.
I’ve been a director for over 10 years having been invited before it was even started. I have found working with the other Directors and Regis a very pleasant experience, although I am the only woman on the board (which is a pity) I think I have always been respected for my views and input. There is wide experience among the Directors and this I welcome – there is also a very pragmatic approach with plenty of common sense.
I have been the Mutual Manager of AIM since January 2018. I thoroughly enjoy working with the AIM team at Regis as well as with the AIM Board Directors. Whilst we only have one woman on the AIM Board, there is never any difference at all in consideration of her views over the other Directors’. I have been openly welcomed since joining by all the Directors and feel very much at home.
What changes have you witnessed within the industry in that time?
In the 37 years a huge amount of changes in the activity sector. There were no risk assessments, no safeguarding, no DBS, very few companies had training plans, no attention to the emotional welfare of the customers, and of course no inspections,. The list is endless! One massive change – the private sector is no longer viewed with suspicion by local authorities and I suspect there are very few ‘cowboys’ still operating.
As a lawyer I saw an increasing trend by judges to understand and appreciate the benefits of adventurous activities and a willingness to treat spurious claims as spurious! This is such a fast moving industry with new activities starting all the time. Indoor climbing is now a hugely popular sport attracting 1 million participants in 2018; GPs are prescribing activities as alternatives to traditional pills; some school curricula require a percentage of time to be spent outside the classroom – all of which are beneficial to the industry as well as to our members.
Do you currently employ any female instructors and how do you think women are viewed when delivering physically challenging activities?
Yes we employ female instructors and always have done. They have also always had equal pay and terms. Our Chief Instructor is female, and our Ops Manager was female up until last year. Women tend not to go for the really challenging qualifications in my experience and certainly it is still a fairly male dominated work place. I don’t think that employers want this and they welcome female instructors – unfortunately there are just less women looking for the jobs. There are still male instructors who rather sneer at women who haven’t got the pieces of paper but I think they are getting fewer!
We have a core AIM team at Regis which is a well balanced mix of male and female!
Personally, what activities do you enjoy the most?
I think a canoe journey is one of my favourites though I do a lot of walking as well. I have a female friend who has set up a walking company – her challenge is to get me to be able to map read correctly!
I love running, hill walking and skiing. I can sail but am a better crew than helm, and recently had a go at indoor climbing and have definitely “got the bug”!
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is (Balance for Better) How do you think the activities sector is performing overall?
I think the gender balance is becoming more equal though I am still appalled when I hear that some employees in companies are not paid equally because of their gender. I think that the activity sector, particularly with instructors, does not differentiate but it may happen further up the ladder. My niece recently completed an expedition to find the Endurance at the South Pole and there were a number of female scientists, doctors, engineersetc. who were on the expedition,it was really inspiring and they did a fine job.
I recognise a good mix of ages and fairly equal split between male and female in terms of instructors and staff, as well as participants, in visits to AIM members so unlike the higher echelons of the legal profession (!), I consider that there is a good balance within the activities sector.
AIM was established in 2005 in response to growing demand within the sector for a cost-effective alternative to traditional insurance cover.