It’s not every day you get to be part of a webinar with four inspirational businesswomen, but that’s what I got to do last week. Taking part in the Fabulous ‘Bossing It’ webinar series, I spoke about the challenges and opportunities of being a woman in business with Baroness Karren Brady; Yemi Penn, founder of WSquared, F45 training and Yemi Penn Consulting; Penny Streeter, founder of A24 Group and Liv Conlon, founder and CEO of The Thought Leader Method.
Akin to myself, the other women on the panel started their businesses with very little, some even describing their starting point as rock bottom, and it was their entrepreneurial spirit, their drive, passion and motivation to have something of their own which took them from nothing to everything.
“Before success, you can face temporary defeat or complete failure. The key is to put one foot in front of the other and keep going” – Karren Brady
In the short space of an hour, not only did I truly click and connect with all of the women I spoke with, I became part of an incredible community that shared the same values and ethics as me for our future female entrepreneurs. If I could list them all, I would, but we’d be here for an incredibly long time, so instead, I have summed up four of my key takeaways that inspired me, will continue to motivate me as my business journey continues and, I hope, will be that small nudge you need to realise your potential as a businesswoman.
“Get out of your own way”
This mantra is one of my own, but the women on the panel said so many things that resonated with me on this that I had to share.
It’s incredibly easy to get wrapped up in your own head as an entrepreneur, especially when it comes to insecurities and imposter syndrome. I know it took me so many years to learn that when those thoughts began creeping in, I literally had to pull myself from my own head or I’d begin to sink under the weight of expectation.
“Close your eyes and take the leap, and also close your ears” – Penny Streeter
I couldn’t agree more with Penny on the above, your thoughts are your own worst enemy in business and sometimes the only way to overcome them is to shut your eyes and jump. But your thoughts and feelings aren’t only generated by the little voice inside your head, they’re also created because of others, especially those who are quick to judge. But again, this is all about you stepping out of your own way. You won’t be able to silence the trolls or the bullies, the only thing you can do is shut your ears to negativity and not allow yourself to drown in a pool of self-doubt. Whether it’s your own thoughts, or the unwarranted thoughts of others, move out of your own way and take hold of the path that you want to walk down.
“It’s okay to be ambitious”
Ambition is an incredibly loaded word, it’s hard-hitting, it conjures up images of success, strength and valour but, for many, when imaging ambition personified, it’s more than likely that the image would be male. Sadly, women are still judged for being ambitious, we’re labelled ‘pushy’ or ‘demanding’ or even ‘unfocused on our maternal paths’ if we even hint at wanting to harbour success for ourselves.
What I would say to that is, ‘so what?’ Yes, women are allowed to be demanding and pushy, we are allowed to put ourselves first from time to time and we most certainly are allowed to have the same dreams as our male counterparts. As Karren Brady so rightly said during our talk:
“Ambition is about not settling for anything other than what you want. It’s about having the energy and the drive to go after it. I hate it when women are scared to call themselves ambitious”
“Defy gendered expectations”
Adding to the above, ambition is also not a synonym for non-maternal or selfish. Some of the businesswomen I have met over the years, including those on last weeks’ panel, are incredible because they have harnessed the skills, motivation and care to be both successful for themselves and raise families.
“I’m a woman – what’s your superpower” – Baroness Karren Brady
But what’s most important from this discussion is that there’s no need to choose anymore, you can be both an incredible leader and a mother if you want, or you can just be a bad-ass CEO or just a bad-ass mother. What women are finding, now more than ever, are the opportunities to take hold of their own careers and lives in whichever way they desire, which is a world from where women were only half a century ago. However, our fight for equality is far from over.
“We’ve come far, but not far enough”
Women have gained huge momentum in the business world, there is an incredible emphasis on diversity and inclusion, and we are aware that no longer can our FTSE100 or our C-Suites be run solely by white men. However, whilst we know all of this, we’re still yet to implement the equal split our nation so desperately needs.
“Nobody was interested in my view or helping me. In sales pitches, the people would look past me, looking for the man doing the presentation” – Penny Streeter
Also, as very rightly said by Yemi, women still carry a weight of expectation to be a supporter or a caregiver, to be a background shadow instead of a shining light at the forefront. And this view comes from centuries of ingrained, intergenerational thoughts and processes which women in the 21st century, and beyond, are beginning to undo.
“We are dealing with centuries of women who are behind the scenes, to undo this we have to look and listen to women who have jumped” – Yemi Penn
With more panels of strong, driven, open and honest women who aren’t afraid to share their failures, shout about their success and challenge the ongoing patriarchy of the male-dominated business world, only then will we begin to see not only a more equal world but a world that allows women to thrive in as many roles as they so choose, instead of having to pick between one or the other.