International Women’s Day

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8th March 2021 sees the world celebrating International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is Choose to Challenge.

“A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change.”*

At New Directions we constantly choose to challenge. We choose to challenge stereotypes, choose to challenge biases and of course, choose to challenge inequality. We therefore decided to talk to our own Group COO, Sophie Cecil, about her experiences, her fantastic career so far, and how she chooses to challenge.

Sophie Cecil, Group COO

Sophie Cecil, Group Chief Operation Officer at New Directions, says:

“When it comes to supporting equality for women and men, first and foremost we can all make a choice to challenge ourselves. Only through actively pushing and developing ourselves can we set about changing any stereotypes, biases or gender inequalities to allow and encourage opportunities for everyone.

I started out on an apprenticeship scheme and worked two other jobs in the evenings and at weekends, whilst continuing to study throughout, and now 30 years later, I am the COO of a corporate group worth £47million.  I didn’t go to university until I was 30, a late starter by any standards, but I have always worked to challenge myself and my commitment paid off.


I did develop my career in what was a more dominated men’s world than it is now, and therefore experienced issues around inequality along the way. This, however, only compelled me to challenge myself further in achieving a position of leadership, and with it the ability to influence real change and achieve greater levels of equality on the ground. 

It is positive to see how things have developed for women in leadership throughout my career and I like to think I have played a part in this by challenging myself, and others where I’ve had to, to encourage change. There’s room for both men and women at all levels of any business, organisation or group and it’s encouraging to see everyone I work with agrees.

At New Directions we have a 60/40 female/male split in our senior leadership teams, and whilst we haven’t purposefully set out to have a majority female lead, it is encouraging to have an almost equal split of men and women.  What’s even better is the diverse range of backgrounds, experiences and ages our senior leadership team brings to the Group.  I’m privileged to work with fantastic colleagues who share my opinion to challenge inequality for all.”

Sophie is an extremely inspirational leader.  Throughout her career she has been recognised and awarded for significantly encouraging change and she continuously drives these behaviours throughout the company, making New Directions a great place to work.

Take a look at the latest career opportunities we have available here.

*www.internationalwomensday.com