Lucy Cavendish establishes The Beatriz Yeron Prize for Academic Achievement in Human, Social and Political Sciences
The prize, launching this year, is possible thanks to the generosity of Lucy alumna Michelle Wood.
Head of People at birdie, Michelle Wood, discusses her time at Lucy and her career journey.
What did you study and how did that lead to what you're doing now?
My current career is in People & Culture. I’m currently the Head of People at birdie, a home health technology startup with a mission to reinvent care to enable older adults to age with confidence at home.
After 15 years of working across Operations and Investor Relations, I took a career break to complete an MPhil in Sociology of Reproduction. As part of my MPhil, I conducted a small-scale qualitative study of senior professional women challenging the choice between motherhood and career. One of the key themes that arose was the importance of working for a company whose culture and policies support women during and after maternity leave, and who promote gender-neutral family leave policies. My study cemented what was already becoming clear to me over the years - the places in which we work play a big role in how the rest of our lives are shaped. This inspired a passion for People & Culture, a career which affords me the privilege of creating inclusive & equitable work environments where people can thrive.
What inspired you to pursue this career?
I’m driven by the difference I can see my team making to the day-to-day lives of our employees. Whether we’re coaching our leadership team on how to resolve day-to-day people management in a kind and caring way, designing career progression frameworks that help provide clear development pathways for our teams, introducing inclusive policies or benefits (fertility leave, wellbeing leave, wellbeing budget), or just lending a friendly ear to employees who are struggling or just need someone to talk to - the People team is at the heart of how employees experience work.
My ultimate aim is to help change the future of how we work. The traditional way of working is no longer aligned with society - from demographic changes, the need for dual-income households and advancements in technology - there is a greater need for flexibility in how we work. My goal is to create spaces where output is more important than hours, people have the flexibility to work around their family or caregiving commitments, and where we not only celebrate our diverse experiences but leverage them to find unique solutions to the big problems we’re trying to solve.
Could you please tell us about the start-up?
The birdie platform equips care businesses of all sizes with the digital tools they need to manage, grow and succeed in delivering outstanding care for older adults, now and in the future.
Why did you choose to study at Lucy Cavendish College?
I didn’t actually choose Lucy - Lucy chose me! I left the college selection on my application open as I thought that the right college would find me. And it did. I can’t imagine having had a better experience than what I had at Lucy. The progressive community at Lucy was exactly the right environment for me to thrive, and I love the spirit of inclusion and belonging that runs through the college. I was in the last cohort to be women-only, and although I had my reservations about opening admission to everyone, I’m delighted to see that Lucy’s raison d’etre - providing a space for people from non-traditional and underrepresented backgrounds - is still alive and kicking. From the friends I made, to the wonderfully warm librarian team (Hi Amanda!), there’s really nothing I didn’t enjoy about my time at Lucy. Years later, I’m still friends with some of my fellow Lucians and regularly attend alumni events, which is a testament in itself to how much the college has meant to me.