Harlow College principal discusses work/life balance on International Women’s Day

Karen Spencer

IN CELEBRATION of International Women’s Day, Principal of Harlow College, Karen Spencer, discusses juggling family life, work life and the pros of having a good education.

Karen has worked at Harlow College for four and a half years, has seven-year-old twin boys and a husband who is a stay-at-home-dad. When Karen gets home after a busy day of being a Principal, she makes sure to switch off from work and doesn’t look at emails, she said: ‘I work hard to focus on family time, reading stories, playing outside and enjoying being with my kids.

‘My husband is amazing. I’m very lucky, he cooks, cleans, washes, shops, looks after the children and is great at DIY. The only thing he doesn’t do is iron, but I can cope with that.

‘I think there are sometimes out-dated views toward maternity leave and women’s entitlements, meaning women have to start their career again after having children. I had to work hard to keep my position when returning to work after having twins.’

Karen studied at a Further Education College and can see the real difference a good education makes to your life chances. Further Education has greater representation from women as principals, with 42% of positions filled by females. However, representation is still an issue as women do make up around 60% of the workforce.

Becoming involved in the education profession wasn’t Karen’s first career choice: ‘I always said that I would never teach, as both my parents were teachers. However, I decided after University that Accountancy was not the profession for me and I went into teacher training.

‘I can honestly say that I love teaching and education because I feel that I’m really adding value and making a difference to people’s lives.’

Equal pay is an on-going issue that women and men deal with in the work place but within the environments that Karen has worked in, she has been fortunate to be paid the same as her male colleagues.

When speaking about whether women are still judged by their clothes, looks and age, Karen said: ‘We live in a media rich society, which unfortunately holds up lots of images of how women and men should look. I’ve always worked hard to educate students that we definitely shouldn’t judge people on how they look.’

Upon looking into the future, Karen is excited about getting the new campus up and running at Stansted whilst still enjoying her work and family time.

Photo supplied by Karen Spencer.

Leah Bloxham

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