I often get dragged into debates about why do we need a woman’s only network in the 21st century since I founded The Business Womans Network 11 years ago.
My first response is businessmen are very welcome and attend every month.
Then I get asked so why not change the name?
While I’m a confident woman, I haven’t always been.
And while I was one of the first female Body shop managers in the automotive industry that doesn’t mean I don’t get the need for an organisation that targets the success of female entrepreneurs.
- Women are less likely to be successful when applying for funding.
- 45% of new mums have their responsibilities stripped when they return from maternity leave*
- The gender pay gap in the UK means that women are paid an average of 18.4% less than men.*
- Globally women make up 23.2 of world governments.*
- And it’s not just at work. Women are 73% more likely to die or get seriously injured in car crashes.
- And did you know that a woman is more likely to die of a heart attack?**
In my own coaching practice I see women who;
- Are unable to access funding.
- Less likely to communicate with national brands and organisation in a bid to work with them.
- Less likely to put themselves forward as the expert.
- Less likely to get on the board.
- Less likely to speak up about bullying in the work place.
- Less likely to ask for additional training and mentoring to achieve promotion.
Thankfully I’ve helped thousands of women in these situations and others that are around inequality and it leads to;
- A new culture in the work place.
- Less fire fighting and micro management.
- New communication rules.
- Less stress and burn out.
- More productive teams.
- Creative solutions that enable individuals and teams to grow and companies to thrive.
I’ve personally always held a quiet belief in myself, so I’ve not paid attention to my sex, but that doesn’t mean to say that others haven’t. And while mindset can take you a long way there are still far too many unnecessary obstacles in the way for women.
I love it when a CEO phones me and says, “I see great potential in her, but I’m not sure she does, help me get her on my board of directors.” There are so many positive examples out there about what is happening to make it fairer for all and I love that.
International Women’s Day is a chance to celebrate men and women that are making these changes happen.
As Sarah Everett a corporate photographer said “There is nothing better than seeing a woman’s face light up when she realises just how amazing she is. It’s like this light radiating from within.”
Personally I can name a lot of men who have helped me break down my own limiting beliefs on what I could achieve and who still play a role in my work to this day.
I can’t stand the blame game that happens to men. I appreciate that there is a mindset and a culture that needs to change and is often inherent to men (I’ve also seen women who attack women too!) However tarnishing every man as not wanting women to achieve is unhelpful because it doesn’t appreciate all that women have achieved and are doing to correct the unfairness.
International Women’s day is not just for women in my eyes. It is a chance for all of us to help break down the obstacles that stop women.
Men have partners, Mum’s, daughters and colleagues they care about.
At an event recently I heard some horrific examples of bullying and unfairness directed at women in business – with one woman being told “to know her place”.
I find this beyond words disappointing in the 21st century. All women even in the UK haven’t had the vote for 100 years and my dear friend Irene who is now 95 still appreciates how lucky she was to be considered for the role of company secretary in the 50’s because it was unheard of. We can all play a part in creating a fairer playing field and speeding up the process.
Because it’s been proven that if we can fight these inequalities then it could be worth billions to the UK economy. Not to mention the social impact to women and families at risk. Enabling us to support our communities better and protect people better too.
So what can you do?
- Look for the hidden perceptions you may hold. As I grow older my teenagers are great levellers reminding me that the way I was bought up probably helped hold women back. My son and daughter keep my thinking fresh and current without being scaremongering or victim mindset.
- Shout about other people’s successes. Us British are far too subtle at celebrating success. If someone gets a 7 figure contract – I’m elated for them. But it’s a UK thing not to talk about money or success, isn’t it? That is why I set up the Insiders – a confidential place to talk business, learn share, and help your business scale up. Share success stories they are role models for us all.
- A lot of what stops women from achieving is around mindset and belief of what we are capable of. I’ve seen it in my own career years ago and when I start working with coaching clients I see it in them too. While as their coach I may be helping them create business plans and models, communication policies and time management strategies to grow the team and the company – ultimately behind all of this is confidence. By being someone that helps build other people’s confidence you are directly part of the solution. I love helping women to appreciate that they have everything they need to be amazing – they just need to accept who they are, own it and go for it. (And that sometimes is the biggest ask – the good news is once they do – wow do they fly!)
- Free. Stop working free, stop asking women to work for free, stop the free movement that undermines women’s value. I get probably one request a month (a conservative figure!) of requests to speak for free. While I will if I can for charities, when banks and national conferences tell me it will be great exposure when they are charging £295 for a ticket what does it say about the value they place on me? At The BWN I hear this all the time, the fact is if you say no, you often discover they did have a budget after all. We need to acknowledge and respect our worth and do the same for other women too.
- Support, nurture and mentor – I’m like a client cheer leader – and one of the reasons I set up The Business Womans Network was so we could support all women in business no matter where they are in the journey, helping them move forward. Having someone there that tells you;
- You’ve got this.
- You can do that.
- For what reason would they not want to work with you?
- What’s stopping you?
- You’ve so much evidence that you can do this, so let’s look at how you make it happen?
- They would be lucky to work with you!
- That glass ceiling is a load of rubbish – go for it!
Etc, etc. One of my favourite calls this year was from a client who was questioning putting in an invoice that wasn’t the usual 3 figures it was 4 and a decent 4 at that. It took only a few minutes to remind them why they were awesome, give them the strategies to be amazing and enable them to get on with it. Getting the message within 24 hours that said “They didn’t question my bill and have already paid it” probably made me as happy as them!
You don’t need to give up a ton of your time, just 20 minutes before a BWN networking event, a chat on messenger, a few emails could make a big difference. I give a % of my time each year to low cost or free mentoring and coaching – what could you choose to give?
- Be honest – talk about the elephant in the room. Many of us have experienced bullying or passive aggressive control over us. The kind of stuff that makes you question if it’s all in your head, should you quit? should you say something? Away it goes around and around in your head. I see a lot of teams who know something less than positive is happening in the work place that damages women’s success but no one is prepared to say anything, not because they don’t care, it’s usually because they fear what people will think of them, what will happen, how it could impact on their career, will they be seen as a team player any more etc, etc. I recently wrote an article around bullying in the work place for a large organisation to use within their UK offices and very little that works needs to be connected to a face to face “this is an issue” conversations – since they are so scary!
- There are lots of ways to raise concerns and issues without feeling like you are doing something wrong. Start by perceiving it in a different way. For instance, if you don’t help the situation get resolved what impact could it have on the company? How many other people could be miserable at work and lack your confidence to do something about it? I’ve seen many “timid mouse’s” (their words, not mine) speak up in a strategy team coaching day and say their private stressed thoughts in front of everyone from Cleaner to CEO – they usually start half scared to death and finish the day with a new team of followers and fans. Expressing their new level of confidence to me in messages for years after. It doesn’t have to be about you, but raising the conversations around the elephants in the room is important.
- You won’t always win. Last year I couldn’t believe that when I was networking a man had his hand on my knee for a lot of the conversation. When I told the organisers (I don’t mind admitting it took a while to decide to take this action.)I wasn’t looking for an attack on the business man, just a polite confidential word that they would be made aware that it made me feel uncomfortable and it was considered inappropriate. I never did hear if that happened. So was it a win? I’m not sure, will I promote that network, not likely I’d want to inflict that on another woman, so no. Will I continue to speak up, absolutely!
You don’t need to quit your job and spend your life trawling online for women to promote, support, mentor or inspire, however if we all took the time to share in women’s wins, to help them through difficult times and encourage them to think bigger it could have a very positive impact on our economy, happiness and even how many women die in car accidents!
I think one of my Insiders sums it up beautifully, thank you Angel Doyle from 1 Oak Care Home for taking the time out of your 6 week Asian Honeymoon (yes 6 weeks, that woman knows how to celebrate and run an amazing care home and day centre!) for sharing what being a woman should mean in the 21st century;
You know what I love about being a woman? Everything. We get to have children, we get to opt out of having children, we get to have a career, we get to be housewives, we have all the options that men have and for years I was told to remember there is a “glass ceiling” for women. This one gent in particular said it to me when I was in a junior role, safe to say that I (and other women who worked for him) have smashed that glass ceiling and have built other women up in the process. Women can, and do, achieve anything they set their minds to. But it is so important to remember women need to magnify each others strengths. Jealous behaviour just isn’t acceptable in this day and age of professionals!
I agree with every word Angel, so to every man, woman and child that has supported me and raised me up, thank you. To every woman on this planet – honestly you are even more amazing than you realise. And if you ever forget that as the amazing Funky Celebrant Michelle Taylor said about me at The BWN recently “I’ve got your back!” Happy International Womens Day!