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Three big steps for women 'crossing thresholds' in the Civil Service

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: A great place to work
Head shot of Steph Rhodes
Steph Rhodes

Crossing Thresholds is a 12-month career mentoring programme for women who want to develop their career in a structured and supportive environment. It is open to women from AO to G6.

My journey with Crossing Thresholds (CT) started by accident. I was looking for a development programme to help me think about ‘where next?’, and stumbled upon CT while browsing the Civil Service Learning website.

None of my colleagues had heard about CT (I found out on day one of the course that all the other participants had come by recommendation), and I confess I was slightly dubious about the ‘women only’ label, but the content was really appealing and my line manager supportive. So, I took the plunge, hoping that the time and financial commitments would prove well worth it.

One year (and a bit) on, I can confirm that they really were.

The programme was a refreshing reminder that we are lucky enough to have choices: women who’ve made the choice to have a career, and have been supported in doing so through the education and training we have received, from our families, partners and employers and a society that recognises the contribution that working women make; and women supported in our professional development by the Civil Service, and our managers who endorsed our participation. That gave me a kind of moral obligation to make the best of the opportunity!

So, what did I get out of the programme?

Well, to start with, I got to know and learn from a group of fantastic women from organisations across government. Having worked solely for the Forestry Commission for the UK part of my career (I’m originally from France), this insight into the wider Civil Service was a bonus in itself.

I also took three main things away: be clear, be bold, be confident.

  1. Be clear: we spent time at the start defining what it is we wanted and, almost as importantly, what we did not want from our careers. Having got that clarity, we were able to focus on how to make it happen. Many of us adapted our plans, but consciously so, deciding to make changes or compromises, not just letting things happen.
  2. Be bold: we know it – women are frequently not as good as men at negotiating and being assertive about what they want. So, how about we start asking? After all, the worst we risk is a ‘no’ – surely worse things happen. And what we don’t ask for, we certainly will not get.
  3. Be confident: women tend to underestimate their skills and abilities compared to men. So, let’s take an objective look at what we are really good at – as well as what we can learn/become better at. And then let’s pitch this confidently.

One year on, I’m in a role that I would simply never have applied for were it not for Crossing Thresholds, and I‘m truly enjoying it. I now actively promote the programme, and have become a mentor for CT participants, while I continue to work on my own development.

'A great place to work' logoOne last thing: my former line manager, who encouraged me to join Crossing Thresholds; my current manager, who is supporting my development; the panel that recruited me into my new role; the partner who supports me every step of the way and shares the parenting and housekeeping… they’re all men. It’s not just women who are ready to give women time and space to develop in the workplace. Just saying.

You can find out more about Crossing Thresholds and book a place on the programme on the Civil Service Learning website.

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  1. Comment by Ela posted on

    Can anyone let me know how to get on this program as Steph did

  2. Comment by C posted on

    Does everyone still not include NOMS in any of these programmes? We have been part of the Civil Service for 2 1/2 years now?

  3. Comment by Dogsbody. posted on

    What about AA's?

  4. Comment by Jess posted on

    Whilst I welcome steps to help women (and men) feel empowered and progress in their careers, I feel like this blog is reinforcing the 'us and them' mentality.

    "the panel that recruited me into my new role; the partner who supports me every step of the way and shares the parenting and housekeeping...they're all men...ready to give women time and space to develop in the workplace" we owe a debt of thanks? For being 'ready' to think about supporting women?

    If we are talking about being bold, be bold enough to EXPECT to share the housework, the parenting, the career? And challenge when your expectations aren't met!

    • Replies to Jess>

      Comment by S posted on

      As a single mother, there is no one to share all of this. No one to pick the child up if I finish late or work away, which makes it virtually impossible to take the opportunities I'd need in order to progress. Then when I look at decent HEO jobs on promotion, they're nearly always hundreds of miles away in London or other big cities - this is what I find to be the real barrier to progression as a woman.

  5. Comment by William posted on

    Don't men want to take "big steps" for their career?

  6. Comment by Anthony posted on

    & will there also be career development for men over 50 who are actively seeking promotion?