From education to employment

International Women’s Day, Inspirational Women: Business and beyond

Samantha Rutter, Chief Operating Officer, Open Study College

What makes an inspirational business woman? With it being International Women’s Day today, we wanted to share with you the thoughts of one of FE’s very own inspirational woman, Open Study College’s Chief Operating Officer Samantha Rutter. We interviewed Samantha to ask about her working life.

How did you decide to work in the Distance Learning industry?

It wasn’t my original choice to be honest I actually studied Law but decided it wasn’t for me. My family had been in the distance learning industry business for many years and it was a natural direction for me to join the industry. I’ve been here for 10 years now and worked my way up so I know every aspect of the business, which I believe is key when you’re going to run a business. It’s difficult to advise someone of the best way to carry out a role when you’ve never done it yourself.

What does an average day as a Chief Operating Officer involve?

Being involved in all aspects of the business means that no two days are the same for me, which is great. One day I can be focusing on the next promotional campaigns and the next day can be reviewing the latest course content and plans to roll out a new sector website. It’s certainly very busy but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

What challenges do you feel women face in the workplace?

Well I know for me personally, sometimes when I walk into a meeting they firstly don’t expect me to be a woman (Sam Rutter) and secondly they are more surprised by my age than my gender as I’m quite young to be in the role I have.

How can women overcome these challenges?

I think if you work hard you can get through any gender barrier. Obviously there are some companies who are not female friendly, but then would you want to work there anyway? I’m lucky at Open Study College we are extremely female friendly and actually have a higher female to male ratio of employees. But my advice would be to go for what you want and don’t let anyone stand in your way.

How do you work to inspire other women?

Through the very nature of our business, which is Distance learning, we help men and women achieve qualifications to help them improve their life choices. However, our courses are particularly empowering to women who perhaps have young children at home or in primary school and can’t commit to the traditional college routes. Our courses are perfect for them and we have some amazing stories of women who have completed courses and are now running their own businesses around their children’s needs which is amazing. I love that we’ve helped over 60,000 students achieve their goals.

Samantha’s five top tips for inspiring and empowering other women are:

  1. Lead by example: People should want to do what you do, and maybe what you say as well.
  2. Help: We seem to have created a generation of sitting back and watching. Don’t do that, offer to help.
  3. Family matters: Don’t do or say anything that you wouldn’t say or wouldn’t want anyone else saying to another female family member.
  4. Encourage: Offer encouragement, whether it’s a new hobby or starting afresh, we all need a few words of encouragement now and then.
  5. Know your limits: You are limitless and you need to understand that you can achieve whatever you want to. You have choices, but not limits.

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