To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, we sat down with our CEO, Laura Barnett, to find out everything from how her career started, to what her advice would be to the young women who aspire to work within the charity industry.
Find out what Laura said below…
Can you tell me about your career and how you got to where you are today?
I started my career in the marketing department of a record label, before moving into public relations. I’ve always found myself in roles where I had to step up during times of crises and feel this may be the one common theme throughout my career. I took a career break to have children and during that time volunteered for several organisations including Rays of Sunshine. I began working for the charity part time in 2010 when we were a small volunteer led organisation with a team of six. Both the role and the charity have grown substantially over the last ten years and I am immensely proud to have been instrumental in that growth.
What motivates you to be successful?
I am motivated to do the best I can for our wish families. To me success is ensuring we have strong foundations laid down so we can continue to create the best possible experiences for our beneficiaries for many years to come. We are there to help families through the most challenging times and success for me is making sure that support never stops.
What is your favourite thing about being a woman?
I think the skills acquired through being a woman and a mother have been completely transferable to my working life, including being naturally adaptable, sensitive and able to oversee multiple projects at once.
Who is your biggest female role model?
My female role models are undoubtedly the mothers of our beneficiaries who I meet on a daily basis. Their ability to remain strong and positive is a constant source of inspiration to me.
What do you think the future looks like for women working within the non-profit industry?
Women dominate the third sector and I don’t see this changing. I believe our jobs will get tougher, but that we will rise to the challenge and continue to lead the way in making a better world for our beneficiaries.
What’s your favourite part about being the CEO of Rays of Sunshine?
Having just recently taken over the role of CEO I feel privileged to be at the helm of this incredible charity which constantly goes above and beyond to brighten lives. One of my favourite parts of the job is being able to inspire others to help us in our mission.
What are your thoughts on Rays of Sunshine having a predominantly female staff force?
We are a team of caring, resourceful, hardworking and creative women – the perfect example of Girl Power. Team work is at the essence of our culture and whether fulfilling a wish, helping at a hospital day or supporting our fundraising events we pull together to turn the impossible into a reality.
How would you encourage more young women to become philanthropists and/or get involved in charity work?
I think volunteering is the perfect introduction to charity work. Not only does it provide the most rewarding experience, but also the chance to hone skills and find the environment which works best for you. Both our former CEO, Jane, and myself started out as volunteers for Rays of Sunshine which is a testament to what can be achieved.
What would be your advice for the young women that want to run their own non-profit organisation or charity one day?
If they are passionate, prepared to work hard and ready to take on daily challenges I would advise them to go for it. Passion is absolutely crucial as, in my view, working for a charity has to be a way of life rather than a career choice.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
I think women should be admired and celebrated all year round, but it’s important to have a day to acknowledge just how far we have come and the wonderful changes we have been able to make through our sheer tenacity and focus.