Pandemic has broken down barriers to work – Ellis

Actor, presenter, and author Janet Ellis told an audience of London market underwriters and brokers that the move to hybrid working has delivered a huge benefit as the lines between home and work become increasingly blurred.

At a special presentation hosted by the International Underwriters’ Association (IUA) to mark International Women’s Day, Ellis was interviewed by IUA CEO Dave Matcham and discussed her career which included roles in some of the UK’s most iconic television series. Discussing the aftermath of COVID and the move to more remote operation Ellis said the past two years had created the environment when working from home was now far more acceptable and in turn created new opportunities for women.

“The pandemic has seen the lines between home and work becoming blurred,” she explained. “People know where we live. In the past there was a reluctance to work from home and communicate remotely because we could have children or pets walk in and interrupt a meeting.

“Now this is simply accepted as part and parcel of our daily lives and that has taken away a significant barrier to returning to work.”

Ellis is best known a presenter of BBC hit children’s show Blue Peter in which she set a then record for the highest parachute jump by a civilian female in Europe during a long running feature in which she undertook a range of parachute jumps.

“I never lost the fear in any of the jumps,” Ellis explained. “My co-presenter Peter Duncan was fearless and would have loved the opportunity to parachute, but I think the fear made the feature all the more real.”

Ellis left the programme after four years after becoming pregnant with her second child and said that women should welcome the use of childcare as it created the ability to have both a family and career.

“Childcare, be it with relatives or paid, has been something that I have always used,” she explained. “I think for parents, and in particular women, there is always a degree of guilt that you are not with your child 24 hours a day but I believe that women should have all the opportunities in business open to them.

“It is all about supporting each other to achieve what you want to achieve. I genuinely believe equality and togetherness go hand in hand.”

Ellis said despite no member of her family having been in the entertainment industry acting was her chosen career from a very early age.

She added that her family had been extremely supportive and as such she had been able to enjoy a career which saw her appear on stage and on screen in series such as Dr Who and The Sweeney. Ellis has also written two books, one of which has been optioned by the Producer of his Swedish drama The Bridge, with a third book already planned.

Ellis’s comments came as a new study by insurer Simply Business found one in three (32%) female entrepreneurs have experienced sexism as a business owner, while one in five (19%) have also experienced gender inequality and unequal access to opportunities.

Overall, 91% of female entrepreneurs questioned said gender bias and inequality is prevalent in business, with a third (33%) describing it as “widespread” or “severe”.

One in five (20%) said they did not feel they’re taken seriously compared to males in their industry, and nearly a fifth (15%) don’t feel they have a loud enough voice or are not heard enough compared to men.

This has led to a quarter (25%) of female entrepreneurs struggling with confidence in business. Well over two fifths (45%) said they felt more people need to call out gender bias or inequality as it happens, to help improve the level of bias widespread across industries.

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