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Highlights of a Deaf Female Role Model

Jun 11, 2024

A full transcript:

Rachel: Hello, how are you doing? Are you well?

Mhairi: Hi.

Rachel: I want to thank you so much for being here today. Here at Deaf-initely Women, we want to congratulate you on your new role. Well done.

Mhairi: Thank you so much.

Rachel: Can you just explain to me your background, what you have done over the years, your journey, and how you have achieved the position of BDA England Manager?

Mhairi: My work-life journey has been long. Let me just reflect back. I’m so grateful for many things, for the different experiences I have been involved in. I’ve had various jobs, for example, before I worked for the Royal School for the Deaf in Derby. There, I worked in different roles: primary, secondary, post-16, and residence, over the years. Then I changed jobs to the Home Support Service, where I supported people with housing issues and their benefits in the Nottingham area. After a few years, I did frontline work, supporting people in the deaf community. Then I saw a job advertised for a community manager, which meant providing and organising PR support for Action Deafness. I thought, “Can I do that? Am I managerial material?” I decided to apply anyway, and to my surprise, I got the job. I rolled up my sleeves and used the team’s skills and knowledge to guide me. I then became a community manager controlling project services and kept climbing the career ladder. Eventually, they made me head of the department for 10 years, learning a lot along the way. Time has flown by as I’ve progressed in my career. Then I saw a job with the BDA England Manager. I thought I would apply, and they gave me the job. I couldn’t believe it, wow. My career progression has involved many different experiences that have helped me move forward. My employment and volunteering work has been instrumental in helping me become a manager.

Rachel: Wow, your journey and the experiences you’ve summarised are impressive. Can I ask you what inspired you to apply for this job? Did you feel inspired, overwhelmed, or something else?

Mhairi: I think because of my experience as a Community Manager and head of the department, I felt I could move forward and do this job as an Manager. At the interview, I explained my experience and felt determined that I could do the job because of my work with Action Deafness. Comparing what I have done in the past the BDA has a broader reach, and I want to see what I can develop, learn, and how I can move the deaf community forward. That’s why I applied for the job; I had nothing to lose. I applied and got the job.

Rachel: In professional jobs, there are lots of challenges and barriers we face and overcome. Can you tell me what challenges you have faced and how you have overcome them?

Mhairi: I am lucky to have had work experience with deaf organisations, where there have been only a few barriers because of communication with deaf people. When working with hearing people, I’ve been grateful for the Access to Work support provided, which funds interpreters for meetings. If interpreters weren’t available, I used video relay services. Now it’s difficult as there is a cap on Access to Work funding, and finding an interpreter is a challenge.

Rachel: Yes, that budget is so important. Access to Work is essential for all of us.

Mhairi: Yes, it’s crucial. I really appreciate the support it gives me.

Rachel: I agree. Do you have a person who has influenced you strongly and is a good role model?

Mhairi: That’s a hard question. For a long time, I was involved with Action Deafness, but before that, I was the only woman on an all-male team. I felt I could gain strength from this, being a woman and deaf. I could show that I could do the job just as well as men. There were only a few deaf women CEOs, which felt like a big inequality. Many people encouraged me to become the next CEO, and that inspired me to climb the career ladder. It means that all deaf women can move forward and have jobs equal to men.

Rachel: Yes, I totally agree. Thank you, that’s lovely. Do you have any tips or advice for other deaf women to help them move forward in their careers?

Mhairi: I would say don’t give up. Start at the bottom, develop skills, keep learning, and gain a variety of experiences. It will be worth it in the end. You will face challenges and barriers, but it will be worth it because you will feel capable. I look back and feel I have benefited from my experiences. I have also been a full-time mum. I want to show that I can work full-time and be a full-time mother. Despite the negativity out there, especially since COVID-19, I want to show that we can manage. Don’t give up.

Rachel: Lovely experiences and advice. This is the last question: You have a busy job, but what other hobbies or interests do you have? How do you balance them?

Mhairi: A long time ago, I loved playing netball regularly and swimming, but then I had children and had to focus on them. My children would tell me I was always working, but I wanted to show them that through hard work, I could provide for them. I still have hobbies, but now I regularly go to the park or have movie nights with my children. It’s all about balance.

Rachel: That’s wonderful. Thank you so much.

Mhairi: Thank you for including me.

Rachel: Thank you for letting us interview you.

Mhairi: Thank you.

Rachel: And from all of us, well done. We wish you a smooth progression as time goes on.

Mhairi: Thank you. I look forward to meeting more of the community and developing further in my job.

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