Meet 6 Women Building the Future of Work

by Deputy Team, 11 minutes read
HOME blog meet 6 women building the future of work

In 2015, the United Nations set a 2030 deadline for the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. In the world of work, this shift to gender equality takes ongoing investment, intentional conversations, and continuous learning to make it a reality. 

Individual efforts drive immeasurable impact, and that’s why we’ve brought together stories from women who are building a better future of work every day, both in the work they do and the way they lead. 

Read on to learn the stories of 6 women who are breaking down barriers in business and helping create a more equitable and inclusive world of work, one shift at a time.

Renee Kinlay — Owner at Aggy’s Corner

Like many leaders in the world of hospitality, Renee Kinlay’s path to running her own business wasn’t linear. 

Before she owned and operated the beautiful cafe Aggy’s Corner, she honed her operational expertise in various corporate roles for 15 years. 

She says one of her proudest moments was transitioning from an Executive Assistant role to Head of Community Engagement with a Singapore-based company in less than three years.

“This achievement not only validated my capabilities but also fuelled my passion for leadership,” Renee says.

That time in Singapore was hugely influential for Renee and the business owner she would later become. 

“In Singapore, I was fortunate to have incredible mentors who not only invested in my education but also empowered me to uplift others.” 

In turn, she had the opportunity to manage, support, and empower a team of 15 talented women, prioritizing their growth and development. 

So what inspired Renee to take the leap of faith from the corporate world to owning and running a small business? She explains that she has a deep passion for the hospitality industry, but on top of that, she wants to enjoy a better work-life balance and more quality time with her two young sons.

To anyone looking to follow in similar footsteps, her advice is to “embrace risks wholeheartedly and step into the arena of giving that business idea a go! Too often, fear holds individuals back from realizing their full potential. Remember, failure is merely a stepping stone towards success, offering invaluable lessons for growth and resilience.”

As she reflects on the most valuable learnings from her career, she shares, “Failure has been my most valuable teacher. While setbacks may sting, they offer profound lessons in resilience and adaptability. It's essential to approach challenges with emotional intelligence, analyzing setbacks with a growth mindset and the courage to persevere.”

When asked what defines a great leader, she says, “A great leader possesses a delicate balance of emotional intelligence and strategic financial perspective.”

Golly Simin — Customer Success Manager at Deputy

Golly Simin has worked as a Customer Success Manager for five years and is responsible for building and maintaining strong customer relationships to drive retention, loyalty, and satisfaction. Given her role’s focus, Golly is acutely aware of the balance of listening and asking questions to understand a customer’s needs. 

“Truly active listening is not easy. We have to listen to what customers say but also pay attention to what they don’t say. By being present and taking both sides of the coin in, you can provide relevant insights for their needs and surface issues your customers may not even be aware of yet.”

Golly’s professional and personal philosophy stems from the power of diversity. 

“I’ve had the privilege to learn from and work with many incredible people from diverse backgrounds and cultures over the years,” she says. “It’s allowed me to form relationships with others on a different level, and I’m constantly striving for more of this connection!”

The most valuable learning of Golly’s career so far also recognizes the importance of diversity of thought. 

“Being open and learning to focus on changing your perspective, or doing the work to understand where other people are coming from, is a valuable professional lesson that also translates well to many aspects of your life,” she says. “If you focus on contributing to improving a situation, rather than trying to change another person, the more successful you’ll be.”

Working in tech means that it can be really easy to get caught up in hustle culture or constantly working towards the next big thing without taking the time to celebrate the little wins. ‘Productive’ can be somewhat of a subjective term, but Golly takes a more mindful approach that focuses on intentionality. Creating routines gives Golly the required structure to feel focused and that she’s working towards something more significant.

“It’s critical to have a long-term strategy, whether it’s regarding your personal goals or the goals of the company you work for,” Golly says. “I always set and focus on shorter-term goals that ladder up to the bigger picture, as this gives me a sense of direction and accomplishment and ensures I’m staying on track.”

“It’s important to enjoy the little things, for one day, you may look back and realize they were the big things.”

Sarah Aoki — Managing Director at Perfect Cleaning Solutions

Sarah Aoki and her now husband Alan Konopka founded Perfect Cleaning Solutions in the Lothian region of Scotland in 2013. With over ten years of history, her company has established a strong presence in the region, instilling trust in its clients and staff.

She was very hands-on in shaping the brand, using her digital arts degree to design the company's website, van, and business logo.

“Running a business daily requires strength and resilience,” Sarah says. “Every day, I encourage myself to learn something new or leave my comfort zone and meet new people. I do a lot of networking, a lot of networking,” she laughs. “ I used to be really shy about speaking to new people or talking on the phone, but I've come a long way. Encouraging myself to do these things has propelled my career forward.” 

Sarah’s youthful appearance often led to initial skepticism from other business owners. “In the beginning, I’d get comments, like, ‘Oh, this wee girl, doing cleaning and stuff, what does she know?’” she recalls with a laugh in her Scottish accent. “People wouldn’t take me seriously, but as the conversation progressed, I could see their perception of me completely change. I’d witness the shift on their faces from doubt to respect.” Her resilience and determination in the face of such challenges is truly inspiring. 

Creating a healthy workplace for her 20 employees at Perfect Cleaning Solutions is a top priority for Sarah. “I want my staff to feel comfortable expressing their feelings and opinions. We regularly meet our staff in person and communicate with them directly, not just through text. We also strive to be flexible about working hours, considering the family commitments of our primarily female workforce.”

Hiring her first employee was one of her major career milestones. “When we started the business, Alan, myself, and our moms did all the jobs ourselves. Can you believe it? So, getting to the point where we could afford to hire someone felt huge. He called me before sending his CV in, and I was impressed by his initiative, so I hired him. And nine years later, he’s still with us.” 

Her biggest advice to other women is to believe in yourself. “Don’t say I can’t do this - if you want to start a business, you can start a business. It can be overwhelming initially, but small businesses have a lot of support.”

Diana Lam — Senior Content Marketing Manager at Deputy

In her role, Diana Lam writes helpful, insightful content for business owners and managers across Deputy’s website, blog, and newsletters.

Each morning, she centers herself with a copy of a poem she wrote her parents years ago. The framed words thank them for the sacrifices they made in order to have and raise her, including escaping the Vietnam War, building a life in a new country from scratch, and taking on countless shift worker schedules.

“When I gave them the original copy, I promised that I would never take those sacrifices for granted and strive to make an impact in everything I do in life, including work.” 

Diana is hugely motivated by her deep sense of connection with Deputy’s mission of improving the world of work, one shift at a time, and is grateful and excited for the role she plays day-to-day. 

“I am part of a team that’s building technology for a problem I’ve seen first-hand through my parents trying to navigate their shift work schedules with companies that had manual and inefficient processes,” she says.  

Consistently fuelled by this positive energy, Diana is able to bring her best self to work by ensuring balance with things that spark joy in her personal life. These include being with her family, going to the gym, working on her cooking skills, and taking the time to go for walks and get fresh air. 

Diana learned early in her career that curiosity is fundamental to growth, as is having an open mind and not being afraid of shifting and adapting to the environment around you. What is equally important is using effective listening to truly understand diverse perspectives, as they only make us stronger as a collective. All very important lessons, especially when working in the world of tech!

Dr. Whitney Dettmer — Owner and Veterinarian of Kentucky Paws Animal Hospital

Dr. Dettmer had a dream to open up her own veterinary practice. In order to do so, she left a stable job and had to work more hours for less pay while building a clientele. With no prior business experience and no investors, she opened up her own veterinary hospital just four years out of school.

Today, she is the owner and veterinarian of Kentucky Paws Animal Hospital. As a full-service boutique-style veterinary, the hospital specializes in caring for small dogs and cats. “It doesn’t feel like your ordinary veterinary hospital and feels like you are at home,” she shares.

Creating a healthy workplace for her team is a top priority for Dr. Dettmer. She always wants to “ensure the workplace is safe and nurturing so staff can be empowered.”

She believes some signs of a healthy workplace include a collaborative work environment and the ability to take time off when you need to reset. “Our business has family-friendly hours - meaning no late evenings or weekends like your typical vet hospital,” says Dr. Dettmer.

As a leader and vet who’s been in practice for almost 7 years now, Dr. Dettmer has learned a lot along the way. She shares one of the most valuable learnings of her career: “I’ve learned that you can’t be everything to everyone, so I try to focus my efforts on what I am really good at and will not hesitate to refer to specialists if I need to or if it is in the best interest of my patients.”

Her top advice to anyone who wants to follow in similar footsteps is: “The biggest risk you can take is to do nothing. I think in order to grow professionally, you have to sometimes put yourself in uncomfortable positions. Trust yourself.”

Sara Yakzan — Account Executive at Deputy

Sara Yakzan has worked in the UK sales team at Deputy for four years, spending the first half as a Sales Development Representative before moving into her Account Executive role, where she focuses on helping small and medium-sized businesses. 

Every day, she chooses to bring a positive outlook to her life — something she’s prioritised since she was a child. 

“I always try to consider things from the perspective of people who may not be as fortunate as I am,” she says. “It’s something I learned from my parents, and it’s very much my motto.” 

This positive attitude and willingness to collaborate and continuously improve drives Sara to make a positive impact on the world, which is in perfect harmony with Deputy’s vision of Thriving Workplaces in every community. When Sara was interviewing for her SDR role in late 2020, she was instantly attracted to Deputy’s purpose, as well as the enthusiasm and passion that shone through the Deputies (what we call Deputy employees) who interviewed her. 

“I’ve been privileged to learn so much throughout my professional journey from different people, industries, and experiences,” she says. “I recognize that, as women, we face additional pressures and obstacles at times, but there is always so much inspiration from the incredible women around us, that I truly think there’s nothing we cannot achieve.”

Sara has always been driven by her aspirations for personal growth, pushing herself to be the best person she can be. “It’s never been about being better than anyone else, but I love to challenge myself to be better in all aspects of my life, whether that’s being a better salesperson at Deputy or with any of my skills or hobbies.”

Sara’s hunger to push herself and those around her ladders up to what she considers the most valuable learning of her career so far: never stop learning and never give up. 

“It’s important for us to be the change we wish to see, to be your own leader and take ownership, but also to stay humble and listen to and learn from the people around you.”

The Shift To Thriving Workplaces

Achieving gender equality is essential to building truly thriving workplaces. To provide insights into the state of shift worker well-being and equality in the hospitality, retail, healthcare, and services industries, we’ve captured insights from over 23 million hours worked in the US in our Shift to Equity Report. Download your copy to understand what equality looks like in hourly work today — and why shift workers are prioritizing job security, predictable schedules, and flexibility more than ever before.