Antonya KloetgenVisible Start Graduate

Developing trust between parties with very different visions and expectations.

I am grateful Antonya was my buddy on this project. She immediately made me feel comfortable and relaxed, it was as if I had known her forever!

We spent a couple of days on Zoom, chatting about everything: our childhoods, marriages, jobs, kids, life challenges — including those of midlife women — plans and aspirations.

In that short time I saw a beautiful, warm, highly intelligent, resourceful and strong woman with the ability to actually hear what people say, truly understand their needs and offer excellent advice and solutions.

Antonya was born in Wales to a Graphic Designer and a Teacher of English as a foreign language, but lived in Greece for most of her childhood with her mum and step father. At the age of 16, her mum got cancer and Antonya had to start looking after her, growing up quickly as a result.

After a couple of years her mum passed away and she made the big move to come back to the UK, choosing to study Catering and Institutional management at the University of Portsmouth and begin a blossoming professional career.

For over 20 years she worked for various media owners — including such big names as The Guardian, BBC, The Times and Sunday Times — exploring and successfully realising her potential in creative solutions, sales and marketing, stakeholder and partnership management, business development, networking and more. When I asked her what she enjoyed most in her work, she said the variety and the adrenaline of working under pressure to manage multiple stakeholders.

Antonya told me a couple of stories from her professional life and I could tell she finds a lot of joy and satisfaction in building bridges; developing trust between parties with very different visions and expectations. I am convinced that each of us has a natural skill which can benefit society and I believe Antonya’s is that she is a natural mediator.

At 53, after working hard in such a dynamic industry for so long, she was made redundant in July of this. When you still feel young, resourceful and capable, having to stop working can really hit hard.

Antonya has to care after her elderly mother-in-law in Greece whilst rigorously searching for her next job. Caring roles often fall to women by default and these responsibilities often arise at this stage in life, which only makes job hunting more challenging – when you are questioning your identity and your financial independence has gone, suddenly finding yourself in a caring role can make your situation seem even more daunting.

Other participants of the Visible Start program shared the view that it’s disheartening for midlife women to compete with the younger generation when looking for a job. We spoke about the role the initiative plays and hope that big change is imminent: that instead of rejecting knowledgeable and powerful midlife women, employers will be fighting to get them on board!

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Daisy PashleyAndrea Harman