The perpetrator sector is unique, in that a great number of the people delivering and leading the work are women, and the majority of service users are men. The work is incredibly specialist, and can be emotionally complex and challenging for the highly skilled workforce delivering it. So why do women do this work? Why is it important for them to be at the centre of this sector? 

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we spoke to four women working at Respect about how they joined the sector, the challenges they’ve faced, and why they think women need to be at the forefront of this work. 

Today, we're joined by Olga Trilla Rodriguez, Data and Performance Manager on the Make a Change project.

How did you start working in the perpetrator sector, and what keeps you here?

So, I didn’t come into the perpetrator sector via a traditional route. I studied physics at university and I started out working in an IT consultancy. I made a move into the charity sector because I wanted to feel like my work had more purpose, and I’m passionate about tackling social inequality and injustice.

My next move was working at Standing Together, which I loved. I was working for a cause that felt relevant to me as a woman, but also in an organisation that was led by women and had feminist principles. I didn’t realise that was possible, coming from the private sector, and it wasn’t something I’d seen before, so that drew me in. Being able to work with people who think like me, who wanted to tackle these issues, and fight for a great cause – it was great.

Then the role with Respect came up, working with data on the Make a Change project, and it was a great opportunity for me to use my skills and develop my career. I’ve found it so interesting working in the perpetrator sector. Having worked in an organisation focused on survivors I know how vital that work is, and how much investment it clearly needs, but I was also interested in prevention work: stopping abuse from happening in the first place. It feels like a hopeful, innovative way to work. That’s what keeps me in this sector.

Have you faced any particular challenges working in the sector, or before moving into it?

On an individual level, prior to this role, I had worked in very male-dominated, high-pressure environments. It wasn’t the right fit for me, and moving into a sector led by women has been a positive change. 

In this sector, I’ve found that management are mindful of the person behind the role, and very trusting of your commitment and expertise. I’ve enjoyed the greater focus on collaboration: it feels encouraging and empowering. We have supervisions that don’t just focus on my productivity and goals, but also how I feel in the role, my achievements, and my suggestions for how we can improve as a project.

I think one challenge we all face in this sector, is funding. So many of us in the sector are on short-term contracts, and we never feel completely secure in our jobs. That’s challenging, especially now I’m in a role I like. I know that in a year my contract will finish, and that uncertainty is hard.

How do you care for your own wellbeing in a sector that can be emotionally complex and challenging?

Luckily there are lots of opportunities and spaces within Respect to talk about any struggles or frustrations, and I’ve always felt like that helps massively. It’s also important for me to identify when I’m feeling negative, and make a conscious effort to separate myself and wind down. On a personal level, having a good network of friends is a great help.

I’ve also thought a lot about what self-care means to me. It turns out I’ve always done things for self-care without labelling it like that, and it was just about actively prioritising those things, like going to the gym at lunch time. Having a manager who knows that’s an important thing for you to do, and gives you the flexibility to look after yourself, is great.

What message would you like to share with other women working in our sector this International Women's Day?

Coming from a technical background, it was cool to see that there are roles for people like me in the third sector. It’s amazing, because, when you come from a science background, you never think you can actually work for these causes. I thought jobs in this sector would be for people with backgrounds in social work or psychology: but data analysis is so needed, and that opened my eyes. I thought “Cool, I can do something in this sector. I don’t need to completely reinvent myself to work some something I’m passionate about”.

So, my message is really for women who want to work in our sector, but who might think their skills don’t match with the cause. If you have a drive to work for a cause like this, chances are there is a job that will fit your skillset, you just need to find it.

Respect is a registered charity in England and Wales, number 1141636, in Scotland, number SC051284 and a company, number 7582438. Registered address: VAI Second Floor, 200a Pentonville Road, London N1 9JP
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