A Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce event held at Peterborough Cathedral
Theme - Press for Progress.
We would like you to share, if you are able to, any advice you would give your younger self as you develop and explore your career and business ideas.
First, can I say a big thank you for inviting me here on International Women’s Day – there is nothing I am happier doing than joining a celebration of human beings who are women.
We ARE awesome aren’t we?
I’ve noticed through the course of my career, which has mostly involved working alongside and employing women, that our awesomeness too often goes unappreciated.
So before I start I would like to offer you, on behalf of the rest of the world, a great big, genuine, heartfelt thank you for all you do...in the workplace, in the home, in your place of learning...and of course if you are still young and starting out, an advance thank you for all you are going to do.
And since it is International Women’s Day, a big thank you too, to all of our mothers, grandmothers and female carers and guardians.
I’ve been asked to speak to you about the advice I would give, as me now, to a younger version of myself setting out on my career. I thought about this, and there’s a problem.
From what I remember of the younger version of myself, any advice to do things differently would not have been welcome, because of course, I knew it all already!
And actually, even if I were to offer advice now, it would be do everything the same.
I’d say to that younger me - be your naive, sometimes arrogant, believe- you- can- change -the -world self. Waste your energy on making mad decisions and having to clear them up. Believe you can persuade the Government to change legislation. Challenge rules and regulations and don’t take no for an answer. Question everything.
Be a small, stroppy, blonde journalist, be a small stroppy blonde CEO.
Because by being, yourself, by following your beliefs and not the rules set down for you, by being who you are, even if who you are doesn’t necessarily fit a mould, you will access the most valuable thing...and that’s true learning from experience.
You might learn, from experience, that you should perhaps listen to advice sometimes; you might learn not to be quite so arrogant and stroppy, you might even decide not to be blonde!
And you might learn that if you are small it takes you longer to be heard or noticed in meetings and consultations, and maybe you learn to develop strategies for that rather than getting angry and frustrated....
But the point I am really making is don’t look back to what you might have said or done in the past - whatever happens... whatever you do... look for and be thankful for the learning... incorporate that learning into the ‘you’ you are now...and move on – keep pressing forward, keep making progress.
So having used half my time telling you how I am NOT going to answer the question, I am going to give myself another question and answer that!
The question I want to answer is this:
Based on your experience of being a woman in leadership, a mother in the workplace, a person who wants the most out of this short stay on the planet, what advice do you have for women engaged now in planning and executing their life’s work?
In that I include,
Women employed by others.
Women working for themselves.
Women working in the home.
Women who are carers.
Women engaged in birthing and nurturing the next generations.
Women in education or developing their skills and talents.
And to this question I have three answers.
If you live by these three answers it is my belief that you will give yourself the best possible chance of feeling fulfilled and satisfied when that time comes when you sit back in your rocking chair and reflect on your experience of and contribution to working life.
First piece of advice:
Take full ownership of who you really are.
Why do I feel it’s so important to say this?
Because so many of the women I have worked alongside, or managed, or the women I now see for mentoring, therapy, on retreats and workshops have ended up somewhere they didn’t want to be, in a life that holds them in a kind of continual tension between what they feel they ought to do and what they really want to be.
In too many cases, even where women acknowledge this, there is a sense of powerlessness – as if it’s all gone too far and can’t now be changed.
Familiarity, fear, or perpetual busy-ness keeps many women ‘stuck’ frustrated, under-achieving, or sometimes over-achieving when less would have been more comfortable. We all know that there is a difference between external success – high status, high salary, huge responsibility for example, and internal success where we feel we have become, or are becoming who we are ‘inside’.
This situation is so sad, because life is short, we only have one go at it (as far as I know) and change IS always possible, even when it feels as if it isn’t.
It has been part of my life’s work to help women change – it’s been my delight to help secretaries see how they can actually become managers, how employed breadwinners can go freelance, how high flyers can stop and become mothers, how mothers can train and develop after they think they have missed the boat. How women who are deaf and blind can be consultants and trainers, How practitioners can become managers and how managers can return to the coal face where they feel they truly belong. Tired women have retired early and discovered a new lease of life and so on....
So I would say to all women: Stop every so often, right from the beginning of your career and spend some time being really honest with yourself about who you REALLY are. When you strip away all those external expectations, all you have been set up to be, check out the real you and what the real you wants. If there is another life, another person within you ticking away behind the scenes get to know that person because that is who your mind and your body wants to be.
One the things I practice now is Clinical Hypnotherapy, and there is a favourite phrase in one of the language patterns I use with clients when they are relaxing I the trance state which is:
The real you is a treasure worth finding – for you, it’s the greatest treasure on earth.
My second piece of advice is:
Be the best possible version of yourself.
So, we’ll assume that you are in touch with who you really are, what you really want to be (which of course for some of you could be exactly as you are now!).
How can you become the best possible version of yourself?
Whoever, or whatever you are, being your best means you have to invest in yourself by looking after yourself. I hear you yawn.... health and well being again...no time... yawn again...
But I ask you to wake up.
To be the best version of yourself means vibrating with health and crackling with potential. Achieving this is the most important work we can do. If we, as women, want to Press for Progress together, then we also have to be fulfilling the awesome potential we have as individuals.
We have to look after our personhood, our womanhood and our relationships with others, all of which depends on healthy minds and bodies.
And that takes work, but it is our most important work. This is despite the fact that education, workplaces - in fact society as a whole - encourages us to ignore the needs of our wondrous minds and bodies and treat ourselves as working machines, which will run indefinitely, handling ridiculous workloads using poor quality fuel, with no repair time!
When I look back over the many years I worked with and supported women within organisations, and my clients and customers now, almost all problems derive from issues that arise from inside us, not outside us.
Sure, many things need to be changed and challenged and developed in the world around us in our ‘Press for Progress’, but think of it... an army of healthy, vibrant, fully actualised women is unstoppable.
Regretably, we are too often an army of women firing on only two cylinders. Health issues, health worries, anxiety, stress, low confidence, low self-esteem, weight worries, digestive disorders, insomnia, chronic conditions.... no time for staying active etc etc. Constantly too tired....always planning to do something about it... but not quite finding the time or the will to make it a priority.
Many of us as women workers constantly give out our energy whilst all too often forgetting to fill up our energy tank. You can change this around believe me. I have done it myself and helped many, many others to do it.
So, now, you own who you really are, you are working to be the best version of yourself, maybe you feel this IS you now, maybe a slightly different version of you is forming in your mind...
...My third piece of advice is simply this
It is believe, fully and absolutely, in yourself.
A woman who has spent the time knowing who she really is and where she wants to go; a woman who has nurtured herself to be the best version of herself and who believes 100% in who she is, and her right to be who she is, is a fully empowered woman.
And a fully empowered woman is unstoppable in her Press for Progress.